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The culture industry, which is centered in cities, thus robs the individual of their freedom to participate in the culture-at-large, forcing them into the role of pure consumer. The unity of style as it manifests itself in cultural products is an expression of social power. The greatest artists thus have a mistrust of style, as the hierarchies of power have constructed it; their greatness thus lies in their inherent flaws, which are truer to life. By suggesting that the forms of real life are fulfilled via their aesthetic derivatives, art and culture thus position themselves on the same platform as ideology. Those who fall victim to the ideology of the culture industry are inevitably the poor and working-class; and as the ideology of the culture industry is contingent on the capitalist myth of success and failure, it is those same individuals who are enslaved by such an ideology who subscribe to and insist upon its supremacy above and beyond those who have actually benefited from the exploitative system. Culture is thus equated with advertising; under a system of advanced capitalism, one cannot disentangle one from the other, as they are both representations of social power, contingent upon one another for survival and sustenance by the masses.
Marxist critique is keen on emphasizing the history of class struggle in analyzing social relations. As such, Marx focuses much of his writing on the urban milieu, which he views as being the primary setting for the marginalization of the poor and working-class from bourgeois society, which does not exist outside of the urban milieu. Marx would hardly be surprised by Fischer's discoveries that lower income rural individuals tended to have a much higher quality of life than lower income individuals dwelling in large cities.
The sociologist with whom Fischer has most in common is undoubtedly Georg Simmel. Simmel did significant research into urbanism throughout much of his career, though his conclusions on city life are hardly more complementary than those of the Chicago School. Like Fischer, Simmel is at first able to view both positive and negative aspects of city and rural life. In the former, Simmel's theory is that regular patterns of association develop among the same people, forming a strong social network. As a result of such patterning, however, the habits and opinions of everyone in the community become so entrenched that it becomes difficult to think outside the borders presented by one's immediate surroundings; as a result, rural denizens tend to be a lot more constricted intellectually by their social environs. Mass conformity - what Fischer would likely characterize as a lack of subcultures - is the inevitable result of life in rural and semirural communities. Urban life brings about the exact opposite. As city dwellers tend to live most of their lives surrounded by strangers, with that comes a greater opportunity to behave, dress, and interact in a less conventional manner, which Simmel equates with a greater degree of freedom. Hence the burgeoning of subcultural networks in city life. At the same time, the city has negative effects on people's mental well-being (as the Chicago School theorists would later assert), in that city dwellers are forced to adapt a "blase," jaded attitude as a means of dealing with the constant stimulation that city life imposes on its inhabitants. Such an attitude results in the city dweller eventually becoming indifferent to his or her surroundings.
While Fischer's analysis is ultimately useful in that it poses a challenge to the polarities posited by Simmel and the sociologists of the Chicago School, it is interesting to ponder the nature of urban life from a contemporary perspective, as many of Fischer's conclusions now appear to be dated. With the advent of the Internet and other advanced forms of communication, previous definitions of social interaction are either invalid or in dire need of revision. As tools such as the Internet have enabled people dwelling in rural and semirural environments to integrate themselves with subcultures traditionally associated with the urban milieu, one can no longer assert with any confidence that subcultures are restricted to city life, as definitions of the city itself have morphed into virtual communities outside of conventional notions of space and time.
Fischer, Claude S. To Dwell Among Friends: Personal Networks in Town and City. Chicago:
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