The term culture industry (German: Kulturindustrie) was coined by the critical theorists Theodor Adorno (1903–1969) and Max Horkheimer (1895–1973), and was presented as critical vocabulary in the chapter “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception”, of the book Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944), wherein they proposed that popular culture is akin to a factory producing standardized cultural goods — films, radio programmes, magazines, etc. — that are used to manipulate mass society into passivity. Consumption of the easy pleasures of popular culture, made available by the mass communications media, renders people docile and content, no matter how difficult their economic circumstances. The inherent danger of the culture industry is the cultivation of false psychological needs that can only be met and satisfied by the products of capitalism; thus Adorno and Horkheimer especially perceived mass-produced culture as dangerous to the more technically and intellectually difficult high arts. In contrast, true psychological needs are freedom, creativity, and genuine happiness, which refer to an earlier demarcation of human needs, established by Herbert Marcuse.
It may be true, in some cases, that the relative wages of different workers reflect the relative market values of the goods and services they produce after managers and capital owners have taken their cut. But when the magnitude of this cut is unrelated to social contribution, and actually constitutes the bulk of total value, the value of the residual paid to those actually engaged in production is not related to social contribution, either. The dominance of the financial sector distorts all prices and wages in the economy, not just those directly related to the activities of the financial sector.
This claim was supported by the supposed “Great Moderation” in economic volatility, a reduction in the variability of Gross Domestic Product observed in the US between the early 1980s and the early 2000s. In fact, even during the Great Moderation, reductions in aggregate volatility concealed what Jacob Hacker described as the “Great Risk Shift,” from business and government to workers and households. Employment became less secure, even in the public sector and in profitable firms that would previously have avoided layoffs except as a last resort. Defined benefit pensions were replaced by defined contribution schemes in which individual workers and their families bore the risk of market fluctuations. The spectacular collapse of 2008 revealed the Great Moderation as an illusion. In the process, tens of millions of households saw their savings wiped out.
When women do it, it’s marketing. When men do it, it’s growth hacking. The masculine re-branding of marketing work as a technical skill — “hacking”, the implication of a more analytical or mathematical focus — is disingenuous, ahistorical. Marketing has always involved analytical and mathematical skills, and in technology, it has always required technical literacy and competency.
The Silicon Valley venture capitalist Vinod Khosla recently suggested that health care will be much improved when medical software—which he has dubbed “Doctor Algorithm”—evolves from assisting primary-care physicians in making diagnoses to replacing the doctors entirely. The cure for imperfect automation is total automation.