Culture, Inc.: The Corporate Takeover of Public Expression
Publish Date: 1989-09-14
Author: Herbert I. Schiller
Most Americans take for granted that they live in an open society with a free marketplace of ideas, in which a variety of forms of expression and opinion flourish and can be heard. But as Herbert Schiller makes clear in Culture, Inc., the corporate arm has reached into every corner of daily life, and from the shopping mall to the art gallery, big-business influence has brought about important changes in American cultural life. Over the last fifty years the private corporate sector in America has steadily widened its economic, political, and cultural role both in the United States and abroad, and Schiller finds the effects alarming. Corporate control of such arenas of culture as museums, theaters, performing arts centers and public broadcasting stations, he argues, has resulted in a broad manipulation of consciousness as well as an insidious form of censorship. Artists with views antithetical to big business, for instance, find they are unable to show in corporate-sponsored museums and galleries. And what does reach the public eye is non-provocative, watered down so as to be palatable to the largest number of potential consumers. Blockbuster museum exhibits present art objects abstracted from their social and historical contexts, and, he maintains, serve primarily as commmercial promotions for the corporations whose banners and logos adorn the exhibit halls. But the cultural landscape is only one area of concern. Schiller points out that the suburban sites of social interaction-- malls and shopping centers-- commonly thought of as public spaces, are actually privately owned. Explicity designed for consumerism and inhospitable as true public meeting places, they act as little more than selling machines. Another conquered frontier, he points out, is the enormously expanded informational system of the last ten years, now owned and directed by a corporate handful. Not only is there massive concentration in the media sector, but information once dispensed and controlled by the government is now farmed out to private concerns, who turn once inexpensive information into a profitable commodity. Schiller also finds the dynamic of information commercialization at work in the nation's universities, where big-business support of research has led to a siphoning off of the findings for their own profit. A disturbing but enlightening picture of corporate America, Culture Inc. exposes the agenda and methods of the corporate cultural takeover, reveals the growing threat to free access to information both at home and abroad, and explains how the few keep managing to benefit from the many. This eye-opening book is for anyone concerned with preserving variety and choice.