This article argues that “evolution” in the production of mass cultural forms has become stalled in our postmodern, networked, and neoliberalized society. Popular cultural forms have historically developed and evolved in dialectical relationship with capitalism. This produced forms that although increasingly reflecting the prime dynamics of industrialization, were also authentically “new” and “diverse” in that they could gestate in spaces and times not already colonized and commodified by capital. Since at least the late 1970s, these spaces and times have been capitalized; indeed capital has also created immense “virtual” spatio-temporalities based on the Internet that are almost wholly commodified. Moreover, these spatio-temporalities, both virtual and real-world, function at accelerated speeds, a “network speed” to produce forms of culture-production and consumption that no longer have the space or time to evolve either dialectically in response to capitalism, or organically as new independent forms. The culture industries continue to flourish, of course, but as this article explains, they do so through the constant recycling of existing, ready-to-hand forms; remixing and reordering and remaking mass culture through an accelerating industrial cycle that leaves no room (or time) for forms that are genuinely new or different.

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