New Culture Industry (I)

Religion is massifying us and it appears to have become a new culture industry in our country. With the politicization of religion and the advent of social media, we have entered a seamless homogenisation of our life. Our culture and religion now impress the same stamp on everything. The term culture industry was introduced by Theodore Adorno and Max Horkheimer to describe the entrainment industry in the 1940s. They taught that culture industry leads to mass consumption and is an important tool of massification of the people. Something is provided to everyone and hence no one escapes the dominance of the market. It is the market that then decides the purpose of life and we live a massified life. While Adorno and Horkheimer critiqued the degeneration of entertainment into what they described as a culture Industry, it may be appropriate to describe the condition of our society as exhibiting a new form of a culture industry with religion as a primary player.

Uniformity is fast erasing diversity in our society. For now, it appears that we are witnessing a happy marriage between capitalism, democracy and Hinduism. This covenant profiles itself as nationalist and deems minorities as anti-national. Unfortunately, a profound religion is made into an ideology in order to grab power and hand over the resources of our people to the power elite. We have come to love to consume this cocktail of religion, democracy and business, even when almost all religion is reduced to mere pretence. Like other forms of the culture industry, the nascent culture industry in our country is authoritarian and works from the top down. If art played a major role in the culture industry in the 1940s, we may agree that it is a religion that is pivotal to the new culture industry in our country which is maintained by suppressing all dissent and killing spontaneity.

We as subjected subjects reproduce the reigning new culture industry by consuming the same in silence or through active collaboration. It produces social and intellectual conformity. We are massified into a motley crowd. This massified life becomes vulnerable to mass deception. We continuously consume divisive propaganda and even violence and feel that we are actualizing a utopia of the rule of the majority. The consequences of this actually are concretizing a dystopia is not known to us. This is why it needs active resistance from us. Hence we need to adopt what Paulo Friere called cultural action for freedom. Friere makes education the site of this cultural action for freedom. We do not seem to have this luxury today as education has long been put on sale. Yet we can work to generate counter publics that will engage our public sphere and interrogate the reigning and open up alter ways of being happy Indians

Counter-publics can become a discursive arena that can develop critical thought. Nancy Frazer advocates counter publics as spaces of contestation where we can contest the reigning discourse of oppression. Since the public sphere mediates our society and the state, it is essential to engage the public sphere to bring about a change that will emancipate our society from the stranglehold of the new culture industry.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao