Corporate capitalism is totalitarian. Left unchecked, it leads to a society where, outside the shrinking, increasingly commercialized sphere of family and friends, everything is a trick, and tricking is the standard form of social relations. It is a recipe for disaster, as current events show.
‘Tis once again the season of peak selling, so a roving TCTer’s thoughts naturally turn to the topic of how, even as their socio-economic order finishes devouring the basis for the further maturation of human society, corporate capitalists continue to provide solutions to non-problems.
Now, so far, the system’s critics have been rather less than careful with the topic of product provision and use, having committed to treating it as “consumption” and then swinging various crude hammers pointlessly around the room. Herbert Marcuse, foreshadowing if not script-writing for Ronald Reagan, based his work on the presumption that average black people in the Jim Crow United States had Cadillacs. Such things not only flew with the left but became classics of supposedly critical theory.
Mainstream critics of leftist cultural critics are, sadly, largely correct when they say the left has tended to be way too cavalier about the existence of great capitalist products. This is funny (in both senses) in part because Marx and Engels famously praised some features of capitalism. Yet few subsequent thinkers in the Marxian tradition have thought with precision about the indisputable and extremely important fact that a great many of the products business society has managed to work out and make affordable are things any sane democracy would want to retain in any decent, sustainable future.
The fact that the system also is quite good at turning broad public scientific breakthroughs (for which it then takes undeserved credit, of course) into actual gadgets is nothing to sneeze at, either, if we want to make such a future.
But, having said all this, it remains true that corporate capitalism is, by its core design, drowning us in silly-ass, often hi-tech, crapola.
Once TCT‘s editor finishes his ongoing book about the ultimate platform for this systemic project, our TCT website will get an overdue structural upgrade and thereby return to seeking user interactivity. One thing we’ll work on then is gathering nominees not only for the annual Golden Hicksie, but also a reader-fueled competition for most offensive new commodity of whatever years we have left.
Perhaps, inspired by this here new product, which I encountered yesterday, we will call that new award the Consumer Trap Turkey of the Year:
That, friends, is the Waring electric turkey fryer. It retails for more than $600. One would love to know how many times each one sold will ever be used. Surely, the ever-so-perfectly-named Conair Corporation knows. It is the entity that puts this beautifully stupid thing on the market.
Let’s be honest, though, shall we?
Even if this familiar and petulant howler were actually true, maybe it would be because “our way of life” is largely an amalgam of outcomes engineered by $2,000,000,000,000 worth of corporate marketing operations. In America, in other words, our way of life is imposed upon us by our one percenters.
Matt Richtel is a great journalist, and some kudos go to the NYT for retaining him.
Today’s story from Richtel and co-author Andrew Jacobs is about how, in order to satisfy their shareholders, corporate capitalists are pushing junk food onto the Third World. It is well worth the read, and includes the story of how Nestle hires women to visit poor households in Brazil with snack items right after their meager welfare checks arrive.
For those of us keeping track of our system’s inexorable commodification of human life, here is a representative and telling behind-the-scenes* quote from the Jacobs and Richtel report:
Ahmet Bozer, president of Coca-Cola International, described [his firm’s commodification efforts] to investors in 2014. “Half the world’s population has not had a Coke in the last 30 days,” he said. “There’s 600 million teenagers who have not had a Coke in the last week. So the opportunity for that is huge.”
*Behind-the-scenes not because it was made in a secret forum, but because our corporate media almost never report such items, despite their institutional centrality and cultural importance.
Apple has touched off a pretty major row in the halls of marketing. Apparently, the next version of its Safari browser will restrict the creation and retention of “cookies,” which are little computer codes that allow big businesses to collect increasingly rich data, without acknowledgement or permission, on internet users. Why Apple is expressing this glint of conscience is an interesting question. Far more interesting and important, though, is what the now-brewing fight confirms about the nature of big business marketing.
Corporate marketing is scientific management of off-the-job behavior. Advertising, a subordinate phase in that endeavor, is lying for money.
If you doubt that, take a look at the big advertising trade groups’ “Open Letter” to Apple. Here’s the operative paragraph:
Apple’s unilateral and heavy-handed approach is bad for consumer choice and bad for the ad-supported online content and services consumers love. Blocking cookies in this manner will drive a wedge between brands and their customers, and it will make advertising more generic and less timely and useful. Put simply, machine-driven cookie choices do not represent user choice; they represent browser-manufacturer choice. As organizations devoted to innovation and growth in the consumer economy, we will actively oppose any actions like this by companies that harm consumers by distorting the digital advertising ecosystem and undermining its operations.
Let’s translate this passage from
marketing-speak into truth, shall we?:
Apple’s unilateral and
heavy-handedindependent approach is bad forreflective of consumer* choice and bad for the ad-supported online content and services consumers lovetolerate. Blocking cookies in this manner will drive a wedge between brands and their customers, and it will make advertising more generic and less timely and usefulit harder for corporations to harvest the data they need to keep manipulating people’s “free time” experiences. Put simply, Apple’s proposed machine-driven cookie choices do not represent user choicemarketers’ existing dictates; they represent browser-manufacturer choiceinternet users’ clear, strongly-held preferences and best interests. As organizations devoted to innovation and growth in the consumer economymicro-managing off-the-job behavior on behalf of the corporate overclass, we will actively oppose any actions like this by companies that harm consumerscorporate investors by distorting the digital advertising ecosystem and undermining its operations.
*Advertisers’ Thought Bubble: Ain’t it a great scam that we still get away with calling people “consumers”?
Corporate capitalism means an ever-expanding marketing race between its major firms, which in turn means the ceaseless, progressive, radical commodification and commercialization of human cultures.
Here is one apt indicator of this entirely predictable, if politically unmentioned, trend: