Mass culture: pro or con? From the time of Adorno and Horkheimer’s seminal essay on “the culture industry,” cultural studies has stood in the shadow of the Frankfurt School’s critique of mass culture and its model of popular vs. elite culture, whatever the merits of either. Looking at culture as something people do rather than buy, Power Misses challenges the prevailing wisdom in cultural studies today.
David James insists that popular resistance to domination by the culture industry must intervene at the point of production rather than consumption. In its most resolute instances, from the poetry of William Blake to the British Miners’ Campaign Tape Project, alternative culture has fused with radical politics. Authoritatively mapping the terrain of cultural resistance under capitalism, James examines the material contradictions and the utopian potentials articulated in John Berger’s fiction, Dada, rock music, the films of Andy Warhol and Jonas Mekas, and the poetry of punk. Following in the steps of Brecht and Benjamin, James explores the myriad ways in which culture is saturated by the commodity form, while at the same time giving rise to numerous forms of popular resistance to the culture industry’s dominance.