The power of art, the power of entertainment

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Media, Culture and Society, 2013, 35 (6), pp. 759 - 770
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The question of the relationship between culture and power continues to exercise researchers. In this commentary I argue that it is useful to consider the differences between 'art' and 'entertainment' as systems of culture, each involving a distinct set of power relationships between producers and audiences. Art wants to change audiences; entertainment wants to be changed by audiences. From these different starting points a series of differences unfold in the power possessed by producers and audiences. Artists pride themselves on not involving the audience in the process of making art. By contrast, entertainment wants audiences to contribute to the making of texts. As to the question of who controls the range forms of culture that are available, it seems that entertainment consumers - unlike art consumers - are ill-disciplined. Historical evidence demonstrates that if legal corporate providers do not offer the kinds of entertainment they want, they will turn to illegal sources. The different ways in which 'art' and 'entertainment' function as cultural systems suggest that we must rethink our positions on 'media power'. © The Author(s) 2013.
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