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Cultural Hegemoney

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    The very nature of cultural creation and production requires an audience to receive a cultural idea or product. Without people willing to receive culture, it cannot be sustainable or become an object (Griswold 2013). Power and influence play an integral part in cultural creation and marketing. The ruling class has the ability to establish cultural norms and manipulate society while turning a profit. Culture is a commodity and those in a position of power to create, produce, and distribute culture gain further social and economic power.

    Culture producing organizations such as multinational corporations and media industries are in the business of producing mass culture products for profit. These organizations have the power to influence people throughout the world. Paul Hirsch (1972) referred to this enterprise as the culture industry system or the “market.” In the culture industry system, multinational corporations and media industries (i.e., cultural creators) produce an excess supply of cultural objects to draw in public attention with the goal of flooding the market to ensure receipt and acceptance of at least one cultural idea or artifact by the people for monetary gain.

    The culture industry system produces mass culture products to generate a culture of consumption (Grazian 2010). The production of mass culture thrives on the notion that culture influences people. In line with the humanities’ perspective on culture, multinational corporations and media industries, believe they have the ability to control and manipulate culture by creating objects or products that people want and desire. This viewpoint suggests cultural receivers or the people are weak, apathetic, and consume culture for recognition and social status (Griswold 2013). If you consider the cultural object of buying and owning a home, the concept of owning a home represents attaining the “American dream.” Even though not all Americans are able to buy and own a home, the cultural industry system has embedded home ownership as a requisite to success and achievement in America.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Street Lights of Times Square. (CC BY 4.0; Jose Francisco Fernandez Saura).

    In contrast, popular culture implies people influence culture. This perspective indicates people are active makers in the creation and acceptance of cultural objects (Griswold 2013). Take into account one of the most popular musical genres today, rap music. The creative use of language and rhetorical styles and strategies of rap music gained local popularity in New York during the 1970s and entered mainstream acceptance in mid-1980s to early ‘90s (Caramanica 2005). The early developments of rap music by the masses led to the genre becoming a cultural object.


    Latinos are the largest and fastest growing ethnic group in the United States. The culture industry system is seeking ways to profit from this group. As multinational corporations and media industries produce cultural objects or products geared toward this population, their cultural identity is transformed into a new subculture blending American and Latino values, beliefs, norms, and practices. Phillip Rodriguez is a documentary filmmaker on Latino culture, history, and identity. He and many other race and diversity experts are exploring the influence of consumption on American Latino culture.

    1. Research the products and advertisements targeting Latinos in the United States. Describe the cultural objects and messaging encouraging a culture of consumption among this group.
    2. What type of values, beliefs, norms, and practices are reinforced in the cultural objects or projects created by the culture industry system?
    3. How might the purchase or consumption of the cultural objects or products you researched influence the self-image, identity, and social status of Latinos?
    4. What new subculture arises by the blending of American and Latino culture? Describe the impact of uniting or combining these cultures on Latinos and Americans.

    Today, rap music like other forms of music is being created and produced by major music labels and related media industries. The culture industry system uses media gatekeepers to regulate information including culture (Grazian 2010). Even with the ability of the people to create popular culture, multinational corporations and media industries maintain power to spread awareness, control access, and messaging. This power to influence the masses also gives the hegemonic ruling class known as the culture industry system the ability to reinforce stereotypes, close minds, and promote fear to encourage acceptance or rejection of certain cultural ideas and artifacts.

    This page titled Cultural Hegemoney is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Vera Kennedy.