to create discontent

“ ‘. . . . The salad days of consumer-motivation research, when the great theorist Ernest Dichter, in the introduction to his seminal work The Strategy of Desire, could pose the question of whether or not it was ethical to wade into the human mind and implant never-before existent desires for unneeded products – only to respond wholeheartedly in the affirmative by wrapping himself in the flag.

‘In the Soviet Union, Dichter argued, advertising was every bit as prevalent as it was in America. The only difference was that the Soviets’ advertising campaigns were run by the government and called propaganda, whereas ours were called marketing and were run by private business. The purpose of propaganda, he went on to say, was to manipulate people into believing that all was as it should be; that the citizens had everything they could want; that they lived in a great country founded upon a great ideal; that their work was important; that their lives were meaningful. In short, propaganda strove to create contentment. The purpose of American-styel marketing, in contrast, was precisely the opposite. It existed to create discontent, to ensure that citizens were never happy with their lot, inciting them to crave more money, more property, newer cars, better clothing, better bodies, younger and more beautiful spouses. Thanks to marketing, American citizens were perpetually unsatisfied, goaded ever onward, ever forward, generating the American advantage, the drive that ensured progress, technological innovation, and a fully stimulated economy.’ ”

(Alex Shakar, The Savage Girl, pp. 136–7.)

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