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Processing Fads and Fashions: An Organization-Set Analysis of Cultural Industry Systems

Paul M. Hirsch
American Journal of Sociology
Vol. 77, No. 4 (Jan., 1972), pp. 639-659
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2776751
Page Count: 21
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Processing Fads and Fashions: An Organization-Set Analysis of Cultural Industry Systems
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Abstract

Organizations engaged in the production and mass distribution of "cultural" items are often confronted by highly uncertain environments at their input and output boundaries. This paper outlines the structure and operation of entrepreneurial organizations in the most speculative segments of three cultural industries: book publishing, phonograph records, and motion pictures. Commercial cultural products are conceived as nonmaterial goods, directed at a mass public of consumers, for whom they serve an esthetic, rather than a clearly utilitarian purpose. Three adaptive "coping" strategies are set forth and examined: the deployment of "contact" men to organizational boundaries; overproduction and differential promotion of new items; and the cooptation of mass-media gatekeepers. The concept of an "industry system" is proposed as a useful frame of reference in which to trace the filtering of new products and ideas as they flow from producer to consumer and in which to examine relations among organizations. This substantive area, seldom viewed from an organizational perspective, is then related to a growing body of literature in the subfield of interorganizational relations.

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