Emotionomics: A Noteworthy “Revelation” of Market Totalitarianism

Capitalism’s apologists have always painted their allegedly history-ending system as the anti-thesis of totalitarianism. Totalitarianism, of course, is the sort of modern social order in which a ruling elite tries to control all aspects of life among its underlying population, especially via threats and appeals to forms of propaganda-induced unreason.

Capitalism, they say, is the opposite of totalitarian, as it is inherently not just respectful of, but actively encouraging of, the advancement of independent self-interested calculation and free choice among the masses.

Alas, they lie.

As Noam Chomsky says, in the real world, capitalists hate the kinds of competitive “markets” classically assumed by Adam Smith. Those “classic” (and purportedly still-extant) situations are simply not conducive to maximizing owners’ profits, as they tend to require price- and management-minimization. Because of these noisome pressures, amid the Great Depression of the 1870s-1890s, the overclass used its clout to launch the corporate age. Capitalism quickly became corporate capitalism.

By the 1920s, the overclass began to realize that diverting some of its bounteous new corporate cash flows into managing not just workers, but also off-the-job behavior settings could, if well and carefully done, become yet another source of ROI.

In the 1950s, accelerating movement in this direction yielded the breakthrough now known in boardrooms and business schools as “the marketing revolution.” Ever since its consolidation — most especially in the core selling zones created by a combination of early capitalist plunder and employment patterns, mid-20th-century democratic footholds, and the need to bolster the Cold War storyline — corporate capitalists have devoted ever-growing budgets to managing the realm of what we uninformed commoners still quaintly think of as our “free time.”

With this in mind, over the coming weeks, I will help you take a look at Emotionomics, a new book in which corporate consultant Dan Hill reports and muses on the growing practice of corporate “neuromarketing.”

Here’s the overall context:

Described by marketing super-guru Philip Kotler as “a revelation,” the book not only tips the hand of core big business marketing attitudes and methods, but it is indeed a “revelation” — an especially clear, not-for-public ears enunciation of the true voice of corporate capital.

Hill’s core revelation is a naked, un-self-conscious admission of the reality of market totalitarianism at the heart of corporate capitalist normalcy.

Hill, whose “blue-chip clients have included Target, Toyota, GlaxoSmithKline, Allstate, and Kellogg, among many others,” counsels his audience of corporate planners to once-and-for-all stop kidding themselves about the “world’s love affair with rationality”:

Breakthroughs in brain science have revealed that people are primarily emotional decision-makers…Emotions are central, not peripheral, to both marketplace and workplace behavior. As a result, companies able to identify, quantify, and thereby act on achieving emotional buy-in or acceptance from consumers and employees alike will enjoy a tremendous competitive advantage.

It doesn’t get much plainer than that: both workers and “consumers” are objects of detailed, ongoing, essentially emotional managerial control campaigns.

As Noam Chomsky also frequently points out, big business corporations are “unaccountable private tyrannies.” These days, they are also getting increasingly clear amongst themselves about the classical nature of their tyranny: Stripped of the standard self-congratulating, self-excusing managerial jargon, this nature is nothing less than pure totalitarianism.

2 Replies to “Emotionomics: A Noteworthy “Revelation” of Market Totalitarianism”

  1. Neuroscience’s recent project is to prove that Adam Smith was right in depicting human behavior not only in the market but in their private lives as well. Adam Smith’s cognitive view of human beings is a calculative being. Calculation here refers to economic decision making using information available to them from both internal and external sources. As neuro-psychologists progressed their animal experimentations, they concluded that animals tend to present various problems of recognizing right signals from the external sources. A gray area in our brain where neurons and cells tend to neglect such signals is found. How this gray area in the brain proves that Adam Smith’s view of human decision making is correct is not clear to laymen. But it seems that neuro-psychologists are satisfied with this finding that human beings indeed maximize efficiency of using their brain cells to arrive at a satisfactory decisions. Herbert Simon once called this process “satisficing” decision making to emphasize the fact that human brain is not perfectly rational. Corporate decision makers and their mindless profit seeking adviser want to prey on this gray area–ie. they want to encourage people to make satisficing (yet, Smithian calculative) decisions. By providing products that make their brain satisfied is one way of achieving such a mission. On a purely micro-level of observation, this may be the truth. However, brain cells don’t control a broad sense of human happiness. Happiness is a complicated and broad cognitive result, which cannot be achieved simply by maximizing the utility of one’s limited brain cells. As dumb people can feel happiness, super smart people can commit suicide due to manic depression. The way corporations want to perpetuate this formula by arguing that happiness can come to those who want to participate in making consumption decisions according to the logic of global capitalism is simply pathetic. On every corner of poverty stricken regions of the world, where their rulers argue that their economy is rapidly developing and therefore people should be happy about it, the whole cognitive process global corporations want these poor people to utilize is–be more like us, the Europeans and Americans. What they mean by European and American way of thinking is not clearly known. However, it is amazing to see how that subtle cultural definition of the “right” way of making consumption decision is changed all the time, according to the rapidly changing taste of the Europeans and American themselves. Therefore, we need to advance formulating something positive about ourselves. At least in making decisions.

Comments are closed.