Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Dumbing-Down: György Markus on Psychotechnology

György Markus, in his 2006 Thesis Eleven essay:  Adorno and Mass Culture: Autonomous Art Against the Culture Industry (Sage link here) writes about mass culture

 Quoting this ‘system of response mechanisms’ from Theodor Adorno’s study On Popular Music (full text here), which he wrote in 1941 in collaboration with his translator, George Simpson (who was and this is not at all an incidental detail, a colleague of the archaeologically and number-attuned musicologist, Ernest McClain) and published in the journal, Studies in Philosophy and Social Science, Markus argues that the implications of this study of popular programming and public opinion, and by no means incidentally during preparations leading for war -- the self-same preparations that led to Adorno’s invitation to America in the first place -- entailed that any review of the so-called culture industry, perhaps especially including social studies of popular music, also must include some attention to what Adorno and Simpson describe as a planned (in the terminology of the day) socio-psychological function,’ or what Markus describes as ‘psychotechnology.’ 

For Adorno and Simpson,
The autonomy of music is replaced by a mere socio-psychological function
 As Markus explains this function:
the culture industry as psychotechnology has more far-reaching effects than the mere perpetuation of its own existence. It imposes upon individuals simplified and homogenized patterns of reality-perception, not so much through the thinly disguised ideological messages usually transmitted by it, but through its destructive impact: the systematic atrophy of the capacity of spontaneous imagination and reflection, for the development and exercise of which art had regularly provided the exempted terrain under conditions of civilization.