This seminar seeks to open up a debate between so-called "high culture" and "popular culture"; in other words, to consider the existence or not of these boundaries. The profound transformation of the production and the consumption of culture in contemporary society, linked to the massive proliferation of information and education, raises questions about the traditional distinctions between an elitist public sphere in opposition to a plebeian public domain on the basis of analysis of the profound transformation of the production and the consumption of culture in contemporary society.

Two interrelated phenomena opened up the possibility of breaking the cultural monopoly of the elites in the Western world: compulsory education and mass communication. Religion lost its hold on people's minds, giving way to the secular ideologies and institutions of knowledge. The revolution of the so-called information society that has dominated the end of the century has dismantled the old national frameworks, at the same time disseminating the concept of the individual as an atomized subject adrift in the universe of the neo-liberal society. The pressure to "liberate" the individual from any links with the community has transformed the citizen into a mere consumer. Consumption is now the way people relate to others. To drive to maximize the number of possible buyers inevitably imposes a loss of rigour and content. Mass culture is seen by some as a superficial, trivializing phenomenon, but it is also for most people a means of access to things that a century ago were effectively out of their reach.


Manuel Vázquez Montalbán. Writer

On the film Lost Highway by David Lynch. Where does it start and where does it end? Greil Marcus. Writer

Present pasts: after the debate on high and low culture.
Andreas Huyssen.
Professor of German and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, New York, where he is also director of the Centre for Comparative Literature and Society.

Challenges. Culture for no-one
Alexander García Düttmann.
Tutor at the Centre for Modern European Philosophy at Middlesex University, London, and tutor in residence in the Department of German at New York University.