"The term "kitsch" emerged in the mid-nineteenth century in Germany as a description of an aesthetic that was seen as banal, trite, predictable, and in bad taste (Calinescu). Thus, the original meanings of the term defines is as an outcome of mass culture and situated kitsch in relation to the emergent mass production of modern culture (MacDonald). The world itself is derived from the German verkitschen, meaning "to cheapen"; Herman Broch's pivotal 1933 essay on kitsch negatively referred to those who relish kitsch as "kitschmensch" or "kitsch men". Kitsch is often associated with cheapness in terms of cost and production, as well as the idea that such cheap things are without any cultural refinement or taste. Mass production is a key component in this definition of kitsch, since these objects have no relationship to craftsmanship. Yet, a kitsch aesthetic is hardly restricted to cheap, mass-produced object. Matei Calinescu notes that many objects that constitute kitsch, while they may be inexpensive, are intended to suggest richness in the form of imitation fold and silver, and that luxury goods can often be seen as kitsch in style. Similarly, high-end design can often engage in a kitsch form of sentimentality.
Kitsch was thus initially associated with a set of social factors that accompanied modernity: the rise of mass culture, the sense of alienation that accompanied the shift to industrialization and urbanization, and the widespread commodification of daily life. Calinescu writes that kitsch "has a lot to do with the modern illusion that beauty can be bought and sold" and that "the desire to escape from adverse or simply dull reality is perhaps the main reason for the wide appeal of kitsch." This sense of easy formular and predictable emotional registers which form a kind og escapism is essential to most definitions of kitsch.
Debates abour kitsch in the context of modernity have often focused on distinctions between high and low culture and between art and mass culture. Clement Greenberg famous 1939 essay, "Avant-Garde and Kitsch," set up a clear contrast between kitsch and art: "Kitsch is mechanical and operates by formulas. Kitsch is vicarious experience and fake sensations... Kitsch is the epitome of all that is spurious in the life of our times. Kitsch pretends to demand nothing of its customers except their money - not even their time." It is not incidental to this critique of kitsch as innocent and naïve taste that kitsch is an important aesthetic for children's cultures. Thus, the cute cultures of children's aesthetics form a continuum with the cute cultures of adult kitsch."
Sturken, Marita (2007) Tourists of History. Memory, Kitsch, and Consumerism from Oklahoma City to Ground Zero. Durham: Duke University Press. p 19.