|Paulo Freire (Pedagogy of the Oppressed)|
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The Frankfurt School and Critical Theory are supportive in this regard. The Frankfurt School, founded in 1923, included the key figures of Theodor Adorno (1903-1969), Max Horkheimer (1895-1973) and Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979). Also connected with the school were Walter Benjamin, Robert Lowenthal and Erich Fromm. All Jewish, they fled Germany with the rise of the National Socialists. Not surprisingly, the themes and issues they explored most often focused on the power of fascism between 1930 and 1944. Their collective experience resulted in an explicit pessimism. Critical Theory is the fruit of the Frankfurt School; it explores the quality and structure of social relations and how the expression of dominant interests systematically suppresses alternative meanings and perspective on everyday life through ideology and repression.
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"The ruthless unity in the culture industry is evidence of what will happen in politics. Marked differentiations such as those of A and B films, or of stories in magazines in different price ranges, depend not so much on subject matter as on classifying, organizing, and labeling consumers. Something is provided for all so that none may escape; the distinctions are emphasized and extended. The public is catered for with a hierarchical range of mass-produced products of varying quality, thus advancing the rule of complete quantification."
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"We may distinguish both true and false needs. "False" are those which are superimposed upon the individual by particular social interests in his repression: the needs which perpetuate toil, aggressiveness, misery, and injustice. Their satisfaction might be most gratifying to the individual, but this happiness is not a condition which has to be maintained and protected if it serves to arrest the development of the ability (his own and others) to recognize the disease of the whole and grasp the chances of curing the disease. The result then is euphoria in unhappiness. Most of the prevailing needs to relax, to have fun, to behave and consume in accordance with the advertisements, to love and hate what others love and hate, belong to this category of false needs."
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Adorno, Theodore., Horkheimer, Max. (2007). Dialectic of Enlightenment. Stanford University Press.
About The Author
Peter Cohen (B.A., M.A.) is presently teaching at Champlain College Lennoxville located in Quebec, Canada. Thoughts on Consumption, Teaching and Learning was originally written in 2012 as an independent paper.