Members of the Frankfurt School coined the term mass culture to indicate that a bogus culture was constantly being manufactured by a newly emerged culture industry (publishing, films, music, electronic media).
Artistic excellence was displaced by sales figures as a measure of worth. A novel was judged on how many copies it sold, music succumbed to top-twenty charts and films were admired for their box-office returns.
The artistic merit defining the vanguardist was abandoned and sales increasingly became the measure and justification of everything. Consumer culture now ruled.
The term ‘avant-garde’ has been appropriated and misapplied by various sectors of the culture industry since the 1960s.
It’s been used as a marketing tool to publicise popular music and commercial cinema. It’s now common to describe successful rock musicians and celebrated film-makers as avant-garde, stripping the word of its proper meaning.
All cultural products, including people, have become commodities with little or no meaning. The culture industry is so vacuous it leads to the belief that the individual’s an illusion, manipulated by figures of authority in the dominant class.