from high culture to mass culture


Today has been filled with a lot of discussions and debates about culture and cultural studies. Starting from the theoretical definitions and ending with examples from k-pop and gangster rap. I must admit that my head is overflowing with questions, ideas and personal insights, thus I would love to share them with you. This post might be a bit more on a serious/educational side, but I will stay away from my textbooks and terms and I will keep it brief, as I am running out of time.

First of all, what is culture? I have heard many definitions of this term from various writers and scientists, but I myself stand with the so called culturalists. Culture is something that everyone creates, that comes and is shared by common people. It consists of values, habits, beliefs, language, music, basically, everything that is created and appreciated by us. However, I am combining the culturalist view with a Leavisism (derives from a literary critic Leavis), which tells that there is High Culture and mass culture (low culture). Although Leavis believes that only the High Culture should be cultivated and the mass culture is “a bad thing”, I disagree. All kinds of culture are somewhat valuable and important.

But what is high culture and mass culture? And don’t forget there is also popular culture…

To me High Culture is everything that is educational, that makes you critical and more intellectual, that is appreciated by many generations to come. It includes the “real” literature (“Crime and Punishment” is High Culture, “Twilight” is not), classical music, like Beethoven, high art (e.g. Vincent van Gogh) and etc. Shortly said, High Culture is something that mostly mature and well educated people value and also create.

On the other side stands mass culture. Often criticized for being too commercial, brain-washing and anti humanist it includes almost everything that we see around us. Television, newspapers, internet, advertisements, even music and art. At this point, culture becomes a commodity, a mass production, there is no individual behind, only corporations and even governments. Despite all the sins, it is still a part of our lives, which we cannot escape. You can only try to embrace the High Culture and create what you want and value.

And now we are left with popular culture, which most of the time is mistaken as mass culture, although it is partially true. To scientists and critics, popular culture stands for everything else that is not High Culture and is created by people, individuals. Folklore music and arts would be a great example, as it is a human “product”, not a commodity. The easiest way to describe popular culture is to say that is the culture of the ordinary people (word popularis in Latin means people, so it is easy to grasp).

In summary, I believe that culture is created and shared by everyone, but it does have three distinctive parts: High Culture comes from well educated elite, popular culture is created by common people and mass culture is a commodity, a commercial product.

What are your thoughts on culture? What type of culture do you value the most and/or which one do you see around  most often? Feel free to share any kind of thoughts!


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