Excerpt: Hypercommercialism

February 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

The term “hypercommercialization” indicates that cultural organizations such as schools and museums and mass media have long had a commercial side, even when audiences and producers ignored, denied, or resisted this commercial side. A common tendency in North America during the past three decades, however, has been to make commercial potential a primary reason for building and maintaining cultural organizations. This tendency can be seen in moves to “privatize” state-funded schooling, to market the economic benefits of arts activities, and to maximize sales spinoffs and product placements in the movie industry. What Adorno analyzed as the culture industry’s replacement of use value by exchange value has invaded many cultural organizations. Further, the replacement of use value has turned into a full-scale celebration of exchange value, such that questions about cultural needs and cultural norms become increasingly difficult to raise and to address. This celebration is an obvious dynamic in the emergence of celebrity culture, where one’s “personal” salability becomes the only qualification apparently needed to get public attention. Once cultural audiences and cultural producers accept exchange value as the only “bottom line,” the communicative capacities of cultural organizations become twisted to noncommunicative and strictly commercial ends.”

* Zuidervaart, Lambert. “Art in Public: Politics, Economics, and a Democratic Culture” p. 178. Cambridge University Press 2011.

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