Popular Culture, Commercialization and Industrialization

Subject: Entertainment & Media
Pages: 4
Words: 1167
Reading time:
5 min
Study level: Bachelor


Popular culture, also known as pop culture, can be explained by various theories, one of them being mass cultural theory. Pop culture is a collection of beliefs, objects, and beliefs that contain the widely shared meaning of a social system. The mass cultural theory asserts that society is transformed by industrialization and the commercialization of cultural practices. Therefore, mass cultural theory explains popular culture as turning a social system into a capitalist for economic production as enabled by the state and media.

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Determinants of Popular Culture

Popular culture is determined by people in their interactions every day. The culture is characterized by slang, greeting rituals, types of food, style of dressing, and mass media (Heryanto, 2018). According to mass cultural theory, when various sets of cultural practices and beliefs are monetized, they form popular culture (Śleszyński, 2021). Societal people practice already determined popular culture in their daily practices. State through capitalism and mass media, forms popular culture, but mass media plays a huge role in spreading it.

Mass media is a primary source of popular cultural practices and beliefs a social system emulates. The culture is shared in the form of popular films, music, radio, television, the internet, video games, and books, among other things (Kaschuba, 2018). Furthermore, advancement in communication technology enables the transmission of popular cultural ideas through the use of telephones. Popular culture, although it spread all over the world, originates in most economically developed countries. Westernization is closely associated with popular culture, as the powerful states dictate economic practices and beliefs.

A popular culture is a form of social control by people in positions of power. Although the culture is shared by people in their daily interactions, the actors do not necessarily determine its source (Heryanto, 2018). The powerful people in control of society also determine the various elements of popular culture. Through the mass media, those in power formulate language, dressing styles, food consumed, and greeting rituals needed for the community. Society then, through various types of media, receives the message and acts accordingly to accommodate it.

Influence of Commercialization and Industrialization on Popular Culture

Commercialization and industrialization influence popular culture both negatively and positively. Initially, popular culture is developed for the communities to identify with various cultural practices and beliefs (Kaschuba, 2018). However, the commercialization of culture eliminates this purpose by turning a social system into a source of financial gain. Unfortunately, turning commodification of culture makes its marketability and profitability superior to intellectual challenge, quality, integrity, and artistry. The determinants of popular culture formulate it to produce revenues whether the society can identify with it or not (Heryanto, 2018). The positive side of this aspect is that through the monetization of culture, people get to earn a living and grow the general economy.

Industrialization causes interruption of the original culture by introducing urbanization. Urbanized culture equally aims at making profits from the sale of a newly introduced culture (Kidd, 2018). The mass cultural theory provides that society is transformed by industrialization into a production site. Popular culture is made more useful by producing it for the market. Urbanization of culture seeks to cope with economic development, thus barely producing quality art but more of what is profitable for the business (Kaschuba, 2018). The business owners here have social control over popular culture, so the consumer has to abide by the practices. Whether the art producers offer low-quality art to the community, the people have little to no power to refuse the production.

Popular Culture as a Control

Popular culture is used to control and indoctrinate people into the ways of those in power. Today’s beliefs and practices are based on how powerful people, as shown in mass media, behave (Kidd, 2018). In other words, the spread of popular culture is aimed at controlling societal norms. For example, films and music introduce foreign culture to a community, and the people are happy to dominate the new culture. Consequently, those in the power position and whose voices and actions are displayed in mass media have the power to control people.

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Although those in power control society through the formulation of popular culture, the culture is made up of creativity. Mass culture theory pictures popular culture as that is produced for mass consumption (Kidd, 2018). It aims at capturing a large audience and thus must be formulated to suit their needs and more to be profitable. When developing popular culture, those in control apply creativity to ensure little challenge from those who would want to oppose it (Kidd, 2018). In doing so, the dominating group makes the society feel like it is in control by allowing applying emerging forms of development. The goal of the dominating group is to control the community and profitably gain from the exercise.

Review of Mass Cultural Theory

Mass culture theory has several strengths and weaknesses, which makes it useful and still exposed to criticism. A major strength of the theory is stating that the whole idea of popular culture is motivated by financial gain (Śleszyński, 2021). Popular culture is introduced by industrialization and the need to produce for mass consumption. Art is no longer produced for entertainment but for market and financial benefits. Another strength is that the idea of popular culture makes community people to be easily manipulated (Śleszyński, 2021). It is through this vulnerability that the power is monopolized by mass media and the state. Through capitalism, the state and media take control of popular culture for its formulation and spread.

A major weakness and source of criticism for the theory are based on the mass audience. The theory mentions that popular culture is controlled by the powerful, yet it cannot accommodate the highest culture. The dominating group, despite being the system to produce popular culture, criticizes the community for its inability to accommodate a high level of living. The theory provides that popular culture leads to rot in morality, thus, the elite must raise their standards to eliminate it (Śleszyński, 2021). However, the elite can’t eliminate the rot they created because they consider it moral. The theory from this perspective is, therefore, said to be confusing and lacking reliability. Mass cultural theory is objected to by cultural studies that state that culture is produced by the people who give it meaning (Śleszyński, 2021). Mass culture theory states that popular culture is not produced by the people but by a dominating group and that the community is subject to manipulation.


Popular culture is born of industrialization due to the need to produce for the mass audience. The state and mass media are the major formulators of popular culture. Commercialization and industrialization of culture have led to easy manipulation of people and rot in morals. The mass production of popular culture is then based on financial gain, and less quality is considered. The powerful or dominating group then takes control of the society and only they can change practices. Mass cultural theory has strengths that make it reliable and weakness that makes it objective.


Heryanto, A. (2018). Popular culture and identity politics. In R.W. Hefner (Ed.), Routledge handbook of contemporary Indonesia (pp. 357-368). Routledge.

Kaschuba, W. (2018). Popular culture and workers’ culture as symbolic orders: Comments on the debate about the history of culture and everyday life. In A. Ludtke (Ed.), The history of everyday life (pp. 169-197). Princeton University Press.

Kidd, D. (2018). Pop culture freaks: Identity, mass media, and society. Routledge.

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Śleszyński, J. (2021). Reflections on rationality, utility, university, mass culture, and unsustainable society. Central European Economic Journal, 8(55), 180-190. Web.