Consumer Society

Part I: Key Concepts

Living in the modern world people live in the consumer society. To get a closer understanding of the notion ‘consumer society’, people should pay attention to the life style they follow. Having a lot of different goods at the market, people consume those and buy more and more other goods. One of the main characteristic features of a consumer society is that while consuming different products people do not do it independently, in vacuum.

People are inevitable participants of the consumer society, as buying products they want to buy more and more other related or dependant ones. For example, when people buy a toothbrush, they are unable to use it isolated from other objects, they need toothpaste to get the highest effect from the bought product. The same is about other products, buying some goods, people always want to buy more.

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Ideology

Ideology is a notion which may refer to different spheres of human life. One of the broadest meanings of this notion is the way people think. Ideology is not just the ideas people have in their minds in the relation to one specific problem. Ideology is a set of rules and norms people live with. People should not confuse ideology and culture as these are two absolutely different notions. Culture is an objective notion which just exists in the society.

Culture is created out of traditions which have been formulating for many years. Ideology is a personal subjective treatment of the surrounding world, the attitude to each other and the desire to show a piece of a picture as a whole. Ideology tends to make complex notions simple. Propaganda is one of the sides of ideology, as its main idea is the conviction of other people that his way of thinking is the only correct.

Semiotics

Semiotics is a notion which is aimed at exploring different signs and symbols. One of the best practical applications of semiotics is the creation of different planned or constructed languages. Living in the modern world, it is impossible to imagine contemporary life without computers.

Programming languages are an inevitable part of any computer program and software. Being divided into different branches, semiotics studies different qualities of sign systems, the relation between signs and symbols and their meaning, the connection between symbols their interpretation. Speech and language are the main objects of research in semiotics.

Envy, Desire and Belonging in Advertising

Envy, desire and belonging in advertising are the notions which can exist only in the consumer society. When people watch advertising they want what they see. The feeling of desire may be provoked by a number of reasons. It is not a problem when people want what they see because they need it, advertisement just helps them choose a brand. The problem appears when people want to buy a product because they envy those who possess it.

This is called an advertising belonging. No matter whether people need this product or not, they will surely buy it as their desire to possess the thing others have is too big. All these notions, envy, desire and belonging in advertising are closely related. To become free from advertising belonging, people should either stop envy those who has an opportunity to belong a specific product or should enclose themselves from the desire to buy it.

Part II: Essay

Introduction

There are a number of different definitions of mass culture, and depending on the stress the author makes in his/her definition, this notion have either positive or negative connotation. Having referred a contemporary culture to both mass and popular, it is possible to compare and contrast these two different opinions.

On the one hand, “mass culture is not and can never be good” (Macdonald 43), on the other hand, being mass, “popular culture is linked, for so long, to questions or tradition, of traditional form of life” (Hall 442). Thus, identifying the notion of contemporary culture, we have faced the problem whether to consider it as a positive or a negative issue.

To answer the question whether mass and popular cultures are the elements of contemporary culture and whether they are identified as positive or negative phenomena, we are going to consider different opinions and key arguments offer by the following thinkers, Stuart Hall, F.R. Levis, Dwight Macdonald, and Raymond Williams.

“Mass Culture Is not and Can Never Be Good”

Having stated this idea, Macdonald strictly supports it with the arguments. He is sure that a culture is something individual, which is created by and provided for a human being. Mass use of culture eliminates the very idea of individuality that makes this notion lose its primary meaning.

The following idea is used in support, “a large quantity of people [are] unable to express themselves as human beings because they are related to one another neither as individuals nor as members of communities – indeed, they are not related to each other at all, but only as something distant, abstract, nonhuman”( Macdonald 43).

Looking at the problem from this angle, it is possible to agree with Macdonald, but to investigate the truth, it is important to check the meaning of the word ‘culture’ to make sure that the author considers it in a proper way. Reading an essay by Raymond Williams who tries to explore the origin and etymology of the words ‘culture’ and ‘mass’, many different definitions of the word ‘culture’ was identified. But, there was not mentioned that culture means individual expression or a possession to a specific human being.

Moreover, Raymond underlines that the variations of whatever kind of the word ’culture’ “necessarily involve alternative views of the activities, relationships, and processes which this complex word indicates” (Raymond 28). Thus, the word culture does not mean a specific characteristic of one particular person, it is a set of issues which characterizes a group of people.

The Benefits of Mass Culture

According to Hall, popular culture has a positive connotation as it reflects traditions people have. To make the discussion clear, popular culture is a mass culture, as “the things are said to be ‘popular’ because masses of people listen to them, buy them, read them, consume them, and seem to enjoy them to the full” (Hall 446). The main idea of this opinion is that if the culture is mass and people like it, it is popular and there is no need to speak about negative connotation of mass culture.

But, Levis tries to contradict this point of view by means of providing some negative effect of such mass popular culture. It is not a secret that culture changes.

The changes which occur in the society may be too fast and people may not even notice those, but, if too look at the problem broadly, it can be easily noticed that parents are unable to understand their children, “generations find it hard to adjust themselves to each other, and parents are helpless to deal with their children” (Levis 34). Thus, the generations which are so close have different cultures.

The inability to have an individual or at least family culture leads to misunderstanding and conflicts. Hall can contradict this opinion stating that it is not the culture which changes and makes people become different, it is the change in the relationships. Culture changes when a specific tradition becomes dominant over another one. He states that “almost all cultural forms will be contradictory in this sense, composed of antagonistic and unstable elements” (Hall 449).

Contemporary Culture as Mass and Popular One: Personal Opinion

Having considered an opinion of different thinkers on the problem devoted to culture and its essence, I came to the conclusion that contemporary culture is a mass popular culture which denotes the present ideology of people. Thus, I definitely disagree with Macdonald and his point of view that “mass culture is not and can never be good” (Macdonald 43).

The problem of likes and having a personal opinion appears in the frames of this issue. Living in the age of mass entertainment, some people still manage to appreciate high and avant-garde culture.

So, it may be concluded that popular culture in the contemporary world is more than just an opinion of the vast majority of people, being interesting to a limited group of people, a specific culture may be popular as well. It is not the opinion of a separate individual, so it is also mass. Being in demand among a group of people, it is considered to be popular and mass. Mass in this meaning may denote something revolutionary and opposite (Williams 32).

Turning to the personal opinion, I mostly agree with Hall who states that popular culture is a mass one which expresses the ideas of people who consume the cultural products. Culture should be and is referred to the tradition. It can be even stated that culture and tradition are interconnected notions which should always come together. Still, I also agree with Levis, who highlights that culture is in crisis now (34), thus it is impossible to discuss this problem.

One may state that culture and tradition are not related as there are numerous directions in the modern culture of one specific nation. A close consideration of this problem allows us state that the culture of one specific nation is changing by means of influence and domination of different streams, but still, there is always something traditional in ach new trend which makes this very culture related to the national tradition of people.

Conclusion

In conclusion, contemporary culture is both mass and popular as the characteristic features of these notions coincide with the understanding of the modern culture. I strongly believe that culture should be connected with traditions as only in this way each nations will remain particular and unique. Cultural and traditional features are the most characteristic for describing different nations.

Works Cited

Hall, Stuart. “Notes on deconstructing ‘the popular.” Cultural theory and popular culture: a reader. Ed. John Storey. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson, 1998. 442-453. Print.

Levis, F.R. “Mass Civilisation and Minority Culture.” Popular culture: a reader. Eds. Raiford Guins, and Omayra Zaragoza Cruz. New York: SAGE, 2005. 33-38. Print.

Macdonald, Dwight. “A theory of mass culture.” Popular culture: a reader. Eds. Raiford Guins, and Omayra Zaragoza Cruz. New York: SAGE, 2005. 39-46. Print.

Williams, Raymond. “’Culture’ and ‘Masses’.” Popular culture: a reader. Eds. Raiford Guins, and Omayra Zaragoza Cruz. New York: SAGE, 2005. 25-32. Print.

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