Saturday, November 19, 2016

In 2010, the French sociologist Frederic Martel published Mainstream, on the global exportation and supremacy of the entertainment culture -- in which the notion of success (that which sells and reaches the public is good; that which fails to do so is bad) has rendered absolete any other historical conceptions of value. A study to which Mario Vargas Llosa remarks:
Martel's study does not talk about books ... instead it talks exclusively about films, television programmes, videogames, manga, rock, pop and rap concerts, videos and tablets and the "creative industries" that produce and promote them: that is, the entertainment enjoyed by the vast majority of people that has been replacing (and will end up finishing off) the culture of the past. ...

The accounts and the interviews collected by Martel, along with his own analysis, are instructive and quite representative of a reality that, until now, sociological and philosophical studies have not dared to address. The great majority of humanity does not engage with, produce or appreciate any form of culture other than what used to be considered by cultured people, disparagingly, as mere popular pastimes, with no links to the intellectual, artistic and literary activities that were once at the heart of culture. This former culture is now dead, although it still survives in small social enclaves, without any influence on the mainstream.

The essential difference between the culture of the past and the entertainment of today is that the products of the former sought to transcend mere present time, to endure, to stay alive for future generations, while the products of the latter are made to be consumed instantly and disappear, like cake or popcorn. Tolstoy, Thomas Mann, still more Joyce and Faulkner, wrote books that looked to defeat death, outlive their authors and continue attracting and fascinating readers in the future. Brazilian soaps, Bollywood movies and Shakira concerts do not look to exist any longer than the duration of their performance. They disappear and leave space for other equally successful and ephemeral products. Culture is entertainment and what is not entertaining is not culture.

Excerpt, Notes on the Death of Culture: Essays on Spectacle and Society by Mario Vargas Llosa pp. 19-21.

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