chapter  7
30 Pages

Popular Culture and its Politics

What we call ‘popular culture’, for example a set of generally available artefacts —films, records, clothes, television programmes, modes of transport, etc.—did not emerge in its recognizably contemporary form until the post-Second World War period when new consumer products were designed and manufactured for new consumer markets. Paradoxically, in many of the debates about the impact and significance of popular culture, these profound social and economic transformations have been mediated through aesthetic

concepts like ‘quality’ and ‘taste’. These words are passionately contested. Different ideologies, different discourses-we could cite at random here the ‘sociological’, the ‘art historical’, the ‘literary critical’, as well as the discourses of marketing and industrial design cut across these words at different angles producing different meanings at different moments. Underneath the discussion of an issue like ‘discrimination’, complex moral, social, even economic options and strategies are more or less openly examined and the issue of taste-of where to draw the line between good

and bad, high and low, the ugly and the beautiful, the ephemeral and the substantial —emerges at certain points as a quite explicitly political one.