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Critical Study of Popular Culture Discussion

Louis Althusser argues that we are all subjects of the dominant ideology. For him, contemporary communication media are simply ideological state apparatuses that help powerful people remain in power. Political and economic leaders determine the dominant ideology within a society. According to Althusser, the media acts as the mouthpiece of these influential persons. Marx theories suggest that economically powerful people control the society through dominant ideology for their own gains. Thus, dominant ideologies help the fortunate to exploit the less unfortunate. Consequently, powerful people use communication apparatus to enhance their stay in power while they oppress the ordinary citizen. We are all subjects of dominant ideologies since we uphold power and powerful people.


According to Fiske, people create popular culture but culture never creates popular people. Thus, consumers make popular culture since they determine what becomes popular. Thus, not all cultural subjects are incorporated into the dominant ideology. Cultural and media products that are not appealing become flops while those that the consumers like become necessities or trends. Thus, without the people (consumers) the industry cannot produce popular cultures. For example, television viewers determine what stays on their TV screens by making it a trend or a necessity. Fiske has called this "semiotic resistance," when audiences reject the meanings preferred by their corporate masters and make meanings of their own. For example, most Americans do not support America’s military interventions being conducted in the Middle East. This rejection does not indicate lack of appreciation for the military, but the rejection of the superpower ideology.

In conclusion, economic and political leaders use the media as ideological state apparatus (ISA) to promote their own welfare. However, the consumers have the ability to determine what enters into the dominant ideology and that, which does not.

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