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Sunday, January 6, 2013

Capitalism and Advertising

"Strange as it may seem to us, the underlying concern of American capitalism in the late nineteenth century was the possibility of sufficiency. Just as Marx had envisioned a world where everyone would have enough for a decent life, American capitalists were worried that people would stop buying their goods once they had enough things to live comfortably. There seemed no obvious reason why someone would replace a piece of furniture or a coat or a set of crockery simply because it was old. This problem was solved in large part through the influence of Edward Bernays, a nephew of Sigmund Freud, and principle promoter of his ideas in America. Bernays was intrigued by Freud's view that people are bundles of emotion, passion, and desire, and that the real motive for human action is the satisfaction of deep-seated desires rather than rational calculation. Bernays saw that American companies needed to transform the way people thought about their purchases, so that they would forget about trying to fill their rational needs and instead aim to fulfill their desires. In the 1920s, consumerism, or consumptionism as it was called then, was born. Calvin Coolidge declared that an 'American's importance to his country is not as a citizen but as a consumer'. Rather than selling goods to its customers, the advertising industry began to sell happiness."

 - Roger Osborne (in the book Civilization