In contemporary Western societies mass culture appeals to physical pleasures to an increasing extent. That process is the subject of controversies between the theoreticians of social life who dispute, inter alia, the right of the claims of that culture to be a factor for erotic liberation. The paper is an attempt to provide an overview of that dispute. On the one hand, it presents views of writers who are inclined to perceive mass culture as the domain of play and sensual pleasures - i.e. the cultural populists and especially the postmodernists. On the other, the views of theoreticians are presented who are critical of theses concerning playful and erotic nature of participation in mass culture - from representatives of the Frankfurt School to conservative thinkers, feminist authors and contemporary sociologists of the body, who often point out that today's mass culture, in spite of its ostentatious hedonism, is saturated with ascetic and conforming elements.
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