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The Cultural Industry as a Part of the Capitalist Society and Fiskes Argument

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Fiske states that ‘we live in an industrial society, so of course our popular culture is an industrialized culture’. In order to understand ‘popular culture’ in Fiske’s terms, it is worth making reference to his book Understanding Popular Culture. Here Fiske reiterates what lies at the heart of this article – the contradictory nature between industry and people. He, therefore, concludes that this contradiction has a necessary impact on the nature of culture. He states that ‘mass culture is such a contradiction in terms that it cannot exist. A homogeneous, externally produced culture cannot be sold ready-made to the masses: culture simply does not work like that’. (Fiske 1991: 21). Rather, Fiske argues, there exists a popular culture – one created by the people as a result of their variation and diversity. He specifies that ‘popular culture is made by the people, not produced by the culture industry. All the culture industry can do is produce a repertoire of texts or cultural resources for the various formations of the people to use or reject in the ongoing process of producing their popular culture’. An understanding of these concepts is essential for a better grasp of Fiske’s theory. He then goes on to declare that ‘with very few and very marginal exceptions, people cannot and do not produce their own commodities’. Unfortunately, he does not go into more detail over this sweeping generalisation which is a keystone of his argument. With the birth of the internet, people have been able, through tools such as blogs and myspace.com, to create and diffuse their own cultural commodities like never before.