Trapped in Reality: Justification and Capitalism in the Discourse of Reality TV Creators in Israel

Noah Lavie (2020)

Media Industries, 7(1), pp. 1-20

Abstract. This article examines the self-perception of Israel TV’s reality show creators as a case study of how cultural industry employees perceive and cope with their work. On the one hand, creators of reality TV in Israel operate in a competitive and precarious working environment, and on the other hand, their work is criticized as inferior and culturally corrupting. Using a combination of cultural industries approach, sociological concepts, and in-depth thematic analysis of interviews with leading creators of the genre, this study sheds light on the justifications they employ and the way they are trapped in a capitalist industry.

Extract. “Pragmatic Sociology: Studying the Cultural Industries’ Labor Force
In industrial and capitalist countries, the cultural industry workplace functions as an important and multifaceted arena for the tug of war between amassing capital (or enough to produce more cultural artifacts) and the desire for creativity and creative freedom.[47] The creative urge is fueled by a combination of motives: self-expression, pleasure, public recognition, and even arrogance.[48] Cultural industries thus constitute a complex and competitive work environment in which an array of pragmatist strategies are employed (see Note 47).
To investigate these strategies in a field where social agents—in our case, reality creators—must fight over their position in the field (see Note 29), let us look at the pragmatic sociology of Luc Boltanski.[49] According to Boltanski and Thévenot,[50] day-to-day interactions of individual social actors are governed by six regimes, or paradigms, of social justification. These social justifications are used by social agents in a versatile manner, depending on time and place. Boltanski and Thévenot (see Note 50) distinguish between the inspired world, a regime of justification that emphasizes creativity, uniqueness, and freedom combined with risk-taking; the domestic world, a regime of justification emphasizing hierarchy and self-worth that attributes great importance to social values and conventions; the world of fame, which emphasizes public opinion and uses social visibility as an index; the civic regime, where the value of the individual is determined by being part of a collective with an emphasis on the “greater good” of the group or society; the market regime, where actions are spurred by the desire of individuals to accumulate assets, accentuating competition and economic gain; and the industrial regime, which highlights professionalism, efficiency, and the ability to present a plan and achieve goals.
Applying Boltanski and Thévenot’s set of social justifications, we will analyze the discourse of the creators and evaluate our findings in the context of the cultural industries—in this case, the television industry. Such an approach will provide deeper insights into the day-to-day coping strategies of those who work in the industry.” (p. 5)

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