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In the late 1930s and early 1940s, television seemed like a positive, even magical development in the United States. Viewers could access global news and experience spectacular entertainment. But soon every aspect of culture, including education and religion, faced pressure to turn into show business. Media theorist Neil Postman's 1985 critique suggests television is an enemy, not a friend, to serious public discourse. He compares late 20th-century America to the dystopia in British writer Aldous Huxley's (1894–1963) Brave New World, where citizens are so absorbed by fascinating technologies, they do not notice their freedom disappearing. Amusing Ourselves to Death urges readers to take all forms of media seriously, revealing the media's ability to transform politics, education, culture, and history.
The title contrasts the pleasurable process of amusement with the serious consequence of death. The contrast is meant to startle readers. The book argues that when a culture replaces information with entertainment, cultural history and individual autonomy disappear.
The subtitle indicates public discussion or discourse has declined since television promoted "show business" in all areas of life. The phrase "Age of Show Business" reflects Postman's theory that different communication tools, such as print and television, shape historical ages or eras.
This study guide for Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business offers summary and analysis on themes, symbols, and other literary devices found in the text. Explore Course Hero's library of literature materials, including documents and Q&A pairs.