The idea of mass consumption, or at least an ideology of mass consumption, as a commercially viable answer to “class thinking,” also found its way into the ads themselves. Goods, as presented in the ads, would provide a bond between groups of people who traditionally were at antagonistic ends of the political structure.
Captains of Consciousness
A fascinating book, it traces the rise of the advertising industry and its role in the creation of a consumer culture.
As the assembly line raised its ugly head in the early twentieth century, mass production of cheap, standardized goods grew. This presented a problem to our plutocrats. Mass production required mass consumption. This led to a marriage-from-hell between advertising and behavioral psychology that changed the nature of advertising from the simple describing of a product’s virtues to the creation of a self-conscious, anxious consumer who sought a meaningful life through the purchase of stuff.
Do your armpits stink? Does your breath turn the air green? Are you “popular,” “normal?” Is your life one of unending boredom and drudgery? We have the product that will put everything right.
Even better, the captains of industry figured that if they could load the working class down with middle class products, the workers might stop thinking of themselves as workers and identify with the middle class, thus neutralizing any radical thoughts of socialism or communism they may have.
Of course, now that the consumption bubble has popped, things could become interesting again. The descent down the economic ladder could reawaken the dormant truth that we are, and always have been, a class-based society.
As the dream of a middle class life of toys and noise vaporizes in the toxic fire of indebtedness, workers may, once again, realize that they are workers being exploited by a corporatist class.
But, who will tell them; who will lead them?