How did MASS culture differ from ELITE culture with relation between mass production and mass consumption between the years 1910-1939?

Expert Answers
farouk23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

By definition, Mass culture refers to culture that is disseminated extensively and primarily through the mass media. It occurs when modern communication allows the transfer of information from the source to the people, rather than from people to people or everyday interactions. Elite culture or high culture refers to the culture forms that were reserved for or exclusive to the social elites of the society. This type of culture was primarily associated with the established hierarchy in a society, people like the aristocracy, bourgeoisie, politicians and bureaucrats.

In context to the differences between Mass and Elite culture as they relate to mass production and consumption from 1910-1939, it is necessary to examine the societal trends of the era. In relation to Mass culture, the era saw the spread of radio, television and cinema as well as the nationwide availability of major news (through the use of the news wire services). This had a huge effect on the spread of mass culture, the latest trends and fashions (from dress to hairstyle) were now available to everyone all over the country. This led to a wider market for mass consumer goods and services outside of the traditional major metropolitan hubs. One of the major examples of an alignment between mass production and mass consumption was in the automobile industry, specifically with the ford motor company. Henry Ford used every mass media outlet to popularize the automobile; the Model T was made specifically for and marketed to the mass market.

Elite consumption on the other hand followed the same trends as they had in centuries past, it was spread primarily through social circles rather than the mass media ( although it also played a role). The products were exclusive in nature and were of a conspicuous nature that displayed wealth and status. 

mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mass culture changed dramatically between 1910–1939. Mass culture refers to how culture gets produced and distributed. The radio had a huge impact on mass culture. With many people purchasing radios, many were able to learn about new products. Many people then began to buy these products, which included washing machines, cars, and refrigerators. People were able to get news from the radio as well as various forms of entertainment, such as symphonies, sporting events, and comedy shows. For most Americans, the mass production of these consumer products made them more accessible to the common people.

The elite culture was not impacted as much by these changes. People who were well-off continued to buy specialty products, such as expensive clothing and other high-end products. They supported museums and live theater groups. They tended to spend their free time with people who were from similar social and financial backgrounds. These people were often from groups such as the established "aristocracy," the commercial bourgeoisie, educated bureaucrats, and political brokers. They tended to consume products that others in their social circle consumed. Some of these products were very expensive, and they tended to be out of the reach of the majority of the population.

jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

During the years 1910–1939, and particularly during the 1920s, consumers from the middle and lower classes were able to buy goods that only the elite could formerly afford. New consumer goods that became widely available during this era included radios, washing machines, fridges, and cars. In order to purchase these goods, many consumers began to use installment plans. It is estimated that 75% of automobiles were sold through installment plans, and credit also became widely available to consumers. Even clothing was often purchased through installments. Mass production and new forms of marketing, such as department stores, lowered prices and brought elite styles to the masses. However, while the elite, who saw their share of the income skyrocket, could afford these goods, the masses could really not afford these goods. Over time, production outstripped consumer demand, and the stock market collapsed in 1929 partly as a result of this situation.