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The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Consumption and Consumer Studies by J. Michael Ryan, Daniel Thomas Cook

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Popular Culture

MARK RUBINFELD

Westminster College, Salt Lake City, USA

DOI: 10.1002/9781118989463.wbeccs194

“Popular culture” is a generic term that defies precise definition. Like the broader culture that it emanates from and contributes to, any attempts to define popular culture typically invite controversy while requiring elaboration and qualification. Because popular culture covers such a wide array of forms and functions, products and productions, processes and practices, and symbolisms and significances, no single definition of popular culture can fully capture its essence since there is no single essence to capture. However, most definitions of popular culture tend to broadly characterize it in terms of contemporary cultural forms that are (1) widely liked by large segments of the general public, (2) mass produced and distributed by and for commercial interests, and (3) consumed by individuals and groups primarily for purposes of amusement, entertainment, escapism, and fantasy or, in the case of fashion, glamour, trend, and style. By adding to, subtracting from, or otherwise modifying this list of component characteristics, different critical approaches to understanding popular culture provide differing critical perspectives as to what popular culture is, includes, and involves. There are generally six major critical approaches to understanding popular culture, which can best be classified in terms of a cultural bifurcation approach, a production of culture approach, a ...

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