"Captains of Consciousness:
Advertising and the Social Roots of Consumer Culture"
Stuart Ewen, Mc-Graw-Hill, 1976
The Creation of the "Consumer Culture"
Demands of an expanding
industrial system in the early days of the 20th Century
The technology of
The need to reshape the
mentality of the heterogeneous cultural segments of U.S.
Working class resistance
"...advertising was to
develop as a tool of social order whose self-espoused purpose was the
'nullification' of the 'customs of ages; [to]...break down the barriers of
individual habits.' It defined itself as 'at once the destroyer and
creator in the process of the ever-evolving new..."
"The development of an
ideology of consumption responded both to the issue of social control and
the need for goods distribution."
"Shorter hours and
higher wages were seen as a first step in a broader offensive against the
notions of thrift and an attempt to habituate a national population to the
exigencies of mass productions...Now priorities demanded that the worker
spend his wages and leisure time on the consumer market."
"While agreeing that
'human nature is more difficult to control than material culture.' ad men
spoke in specific terms of 'human instincts' which if properly understood
could induce people 'to buy a given product if it was scientifically
presented. If advertising copy could appeal to the right instincts, the
urge to buy would surely be excited.'"
keep the masses dissatisfied with their mode of life, discontented with
ugly things around them. Satisfied customers are not as profitable as
This is not a "conspiracy" theory, but an analysis of the
"natural" development of a mode of thinking- dominant ideology- which
represented the interests of the new, emerging dominant class of
industrialists. The advertising industry saw itself as providing a necessary
and vital integrative function that would propel America
into the 20th Century.