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The Frankfurt School and Its Aftermath

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Abstract

In this chapter, I outline some theoretical considerations and basic concepts that guide my research. One of the major influences on studies of media has been the work of the early Frankfurt School. Max Horkheimer and Theodore Adorno held that mass media and popular culture under the conditions of late capitalism were repressive and only served to support an order of domination. Late capitalism had contained conflict and dissent including popular culture. Forms of mass and popular entertainment like music, radio, and later television were inherently conformist.

This view, while significant, was overstated. The Frankfurt theorists overestimated the closure of late capitalist culture, and underestimated possibilities for resistance. Although his early work agreed with the Frankfurt theorists, Jurgen Habermas’ conception of the public sphere and later work on legitimation crises provides an alternate approach that recognizes the conflicts in late capitalist societies and democratic political possibilities that the earlier theorists did not recognize. His formation provides a better starting point than those of his predecessors for understanding popular democratic initiatives that led to the creation of public access. I review some of key terms like the public sphere, civil society, and participatory democracy, and point out some modifications of a Habermas-influenced critical theory.

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© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.RochesterUSA

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