Skip to main content

Folk culture and the mass media

  • Thelma McCormack

Black students in North American Universities calling for ‘soul’ courses and the official recognition of dialect speech; small underdeveloped nations fearing the cultural encroachment of ‘Americanization’; policy makers wishing to protect village traditions of handicraft from the technology of factory production; planners advocating decentralization and the preservation of regional or neighbourhood groups; minority ethnic group leaders attempting to maintain their religious customs, language and arts—all share one assumption, namely, that folk societies with their characteristic symbolic cultures are viable (1). Some go further and see in these small, homogeneous, proximate groups the last hope that advanced industrial secular societies can be held down to a human scale, can resist the multiple pressures to become, in the pejorative sense of the word, ‘mass societies’ (2).

Hide All

(1) The term ‘folk society’ is used here loosely to refer to any small scale social system whether it is a primitive tribe in New Guinea, a peasant village in Latin America or an ethnic neighbourhood in Chicago. Strictly speaking, ‘folk societies’ should be differentiated from ‘primitive’, ‘peasant’, ‘ethnic’, etc. For our purposes, however, they share certain characteristics: (a) small scale so that the preponderance of relationships tend to be face-to-face; (b) ascriptive or territorial bonds are strong and sustained over long periods of time by a symbolic system which sanctions them as ‘right’, ‘proper’, ‘natural’, ‘practical’, ‘divinely ordained’, etc.; (c) the division of labour and social differentiation are relatively simple so that neighbours are often kin, coreligionists and co-workers; (d) utilitarian, technological considerations carry less weight than traditional, magical or moral ones; and (e) stability and closure are of greater concern than adaptability and change.

(2) Among others, Kornhauser, Arthur, The Politics of Mass Society (Glencoe, Free Press, 1959).

(3) Greenberg, Clement, Avant-Garde and Kitsch in Hall, James B. and Ulanov, Barry (eds.), Modern Culture and the Arts (New York, McGraw-Hill, 1967), p. 183.

(4) Williams, Raymond, Culture and Society 1780–1950 (London, Penguin, 1961).

(5) Ellul, Jacques, Propaganda, trans. by Kellen, Konrad and Lerner, Jean (New York, Knopf, 1968).

(6) Graña, Céasar, Bohemian Versus Bourgeois (New York, Basic, 1964).

(7) Benda, Julien, The Betrayal of the Intellectuals, trans. by Aldington, Richard (Boston, Beacon Press, 1955).

(8) Hoggart, Richard, The Uses of Literacy (London, Chatto and Windus, 1957).

(9) McCormack, Thelma, Intellectuals and the Mass Media, The American Behavioural Scientist, IX (1965/1966), 3136.

(10) Boorstin, Daniel J., The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America (New York, Harper, 1964).

(11) Engels, Frederick, Letter to Hermann Schlueter, 05 15. 1885, reprinted in Marx, Karl and Engels, Frederick, Literature and Art, Selections from Their Writings (New York, International, 1947), p. 114.

(12) McLuhan, Marshall, Understanding Media (New York, McGraw-Hill, 1964).

(13) Malraux, André, Art, Popular Art, and the Illusion of the Folk, Partisan Review, XVIII (1951), 487495.

(14) Freud, Sigmund, Civilization and Its Discontents, trans. by Strachey, James (New York, Norton, 1962).

(15) Id.Totem and Taboo, trans. by Brill, A. A. (New York, Random, 1938).

(16) Marx, K. and Engels, F., The German Ideology (London, Lawrence and Wishart, 1965), vol. I, p. 432.

(17) Trotsky, Leon, Literature and Revolution, trans. by Strunsky, Rose (Ann Arbor, U. of Michigan, 1960).

(18) Ibid. p. 61.

(19) Ibid. p. 94.

(20) Ibid. p. 92.

(21) Ibid. p. 186.

(22) Parsons, Talcott, Societies, Evolutionary and Comparative Perspectives (Eaglewood Cliffs, Prentice Hall, 1966).

(23) Op. cit. p. 27.

(24) Durkheim, Émile, The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, trans. by Swain, Joseph Ward (Glencoe, Free Press, 1947), p. 36.

(25) Iona, and Opie, Peter, The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren (London, Oxford, 1959).

(26) Fromm, Erich, The Forgotten Language (New York, Grove, 1951), pp. 235241.

(27) Lévi-Strauss, Claude, Totemism, trans. by Needham, Rodney (London, Merlin, 1962).

(28) Eliade, Mircea, Myth and Reality (New York, Harper, 1968).

(29) Hogben, Lancelot, From Cave Painting to Comic Strip (London, Parrish, 1949).

(30) Durkheim, , op. cit. p. 427.

(31) Fiedler, Leslie A., The Middle Against Both Ends, in Rosenberg, Bernard and White, David Manning (eds.), Mass Culture (Glencoe, Free Press, 1960), pp. 537547.

(32) Frank, Joseph, Beginnings of the English Newspaper, 1620–1660 (Cambridge, Harvard Univ. Press, 1961).

(33) Knupfer, Genevieve, Portrait of the Underdog, Public Opinion Quarterly, XI (1947), 103114.

(34) Jensen, Adolf E., Myth and Cult Among Primitive Peoples, trans. by Choldin, Marianna Tax and Weisleder, Wolfgang (Chicago, U. of Chicago, 1963).

(35) Katz, E. and Lazarsfeld, P., Personal Influence (Glencoe, Free Press, 1955).

(36) Weil, Simone, The Need for Roots, trans. by Wills, Arthur (Boston, Beacon Press, 1955), p. 88.

(37) Cooper, Eunice and Jahoda, Marie, The Evasion of Propaganda: How Prejudiced People Respond to Anti-Prejudice Propacanda, The Journal of Psychology, XXIII (1947). 1525.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

European Journal of Sociology / Archives Européennes de Sociologie
  • ISSN: 0003-9756
  • EISSN: 1474-0583
  • URL: /core/journals/european-journal-of-sociology-archives-europeennes-de-sociologie
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 26 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 265 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 16th August 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.