the active, consuming subject
… the principal text has been The Culture Industry by Adorno and Horkheimer, a chapter from the epochal book Dialectic of Enlightenment, whose subtitle – Enlightenment as Mass Deception – is indicative of its philosophy. This text from 1947 employs a Marxist perspective to elucidate the negative effects on culture of serial mass production. From this point of view, it is assumed that the cultural consumer is passive, forced to submit to the dominant system of production which, in turn, is seen as a mechanism of control and subjugation.
The point was not to defend this position but, rather, to scrutinize it and explore the possible alternatives. Adorno and Horkheimer do not see the points at which the consumer can break through and transform the system with critical judgment and creative choices. Many of the students questioned this in the discussions: if culture can be suppressed and degraded, then there must also be a possibility for its liberation and democratisation through the agency of the active, consuming subject.
Yet the primary focus is not simply a critique. It is a celebration of the consumer’s power to create.