In Mass Media. Society and Politics. Role and Functions in Contemporary Greece, pp. 611-642
Editor: Christos Fragkonikolopoulos
Athens: I. Sideris Publications, 2005



This chapter examines the relation of the arts with mass communication in twentieth century and in the developed societies, where the mass media are of major importance for the functions of democracy. The article supports the view that the arts are specific forms of communication (this is what the term "artistic communication" signifies) and therefore their relation with the systems for the production, distribution and reception of symbolic forms in a mass scale is inherent. The analysis is based also on N. Garnham's view, that to understand the functions of the mass media, as well as the ways of cultural consumption in modern societies, and within the modes of production and coercion, a broader definition of the media is necessary, one that will not focus exclusively on the press, television and radio. From this point of view, and given that the symbolic communication is of central importance in late modernity, it would be very limiting to overlook the functions of the arts related with the manufacture of consent as well as with its subversion.

This is the theoretical framework in which the chapter discusses mediation and mass scale as main features of the dominant forms of artistic communication in modern societies. The production, dissemination and reception of artistic goods in mass scale, and through a complex system of institutions - that Howard Becker named "art world" - makes the asymmetries in the freedom of choice and in the access (to cultural resources, channels of communication, and artistic goods), a problem of central importance.

Therefore, the study gives particular emphasis to the antinomies and contradictions of the artistic communication in modern societies that prove the arts not as the "innocent adornments of life", designed for light entertainment, but as fields of symbolic antagonism and conflict with particularly important social, economic and political ramifications.

The analysis concludes that the asymmetries in the access and the freedom of choice - for the artists and for the public alike - are related not only (and not mainly) with the intermediary institutions, but with the cultural and educational policy as well. In this respect, the article argues that emancipation and democracy in the field of the artistic communication cannot be achieved just by advancing the access of larger parts of the population to larger quantities of artistic goods. It might be achieved by advancing and encouraging systematically autonomous forms of artistic communication and the active participation of the audiences first in their status as citizens, and then as consumers; not vice versa.