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  • Author or Editor: Jukka Gronow x
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Industrially produced mass culture has the reputation of being uniform and monotonous, leaving hardly any room for originality and creativity. In stark contrast to this concept, other theorists of popular culture emphasise the increasing individuality of mass culture made possible by the increasing opulence and leisure time of the working masses followed by the marketing of consumer goods and services. Using the American automotive markets and the Soviet fashion industry as examples, the article addresses the role of fashion in promoting individuality in modern consumer culture questioning both Horkheimer’s and Adorno’s analysis of culture industry and Bourdieu’s analysis of the ‘down-to-earth’ taste of the working class. Critical Theory was right in referring to the culture industry, fashion included, as promoting pseudo-individuation, but not right in downplaying the role of the individual judgement of taste. Bourdieu was right in arguing that the social groups with little cultural and economic capital have hardly any role in challenging the legitimate taste, but not right in arguing that their taste is not an aesthetic taste at all. In analysing the relation between the individual and the social, or the particular and the general, in modern culture, one should pay more attention to the social formation of fashion, operative in consumer goods markets. The reconciliation between the individual and the social that fashion offers is real enough but takes place only provisionally and in a socially conforming manner challenging neither the social formation of fashion nor the general social order of the capitalist, commercial society.

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