When one edits a blog on cars-first transportation and a blog on market totalitarianism, news such as this poses the question of where to comment. Since marketing and market totalitarianism are the bigger, deeper phenomenon, I choose TCT.
I just learned, thanks to a tip by the omnivorous Douglas Pressman of Prague and an article by Bruce Campbell, that, back in 1945, Friedrich Hayek’s wildly naive apology for capitalism, The Road to Serfdom, was made into a comic book promoted by no less a (then as now and evermore) state-dependent corporate capitalist enterprise than General Motors.
Hayek, having only an ultra-abstract textbook understanding of private enterprise, never stopped to wonder about the things his theory elided that were happening right under his nose. Not least among these was, of course, the continuing consolidation of corporate marketing,which is the art and science of applying the principles of scientific management to ordinary people’s off-the-job lives.
As I argue in The Consumer Trap book, the progress and success of this overclass endeavor would make Stalin, Hitler, and Mussolini purple with jealousy, if they were around to see it today. Among its many effects is what I call a market totalitarian society, where people are free to do whatever they want, so long as it’s shopping for and using capitalist products (politicians now distinctly included).
Hayek, of course, could not imagine such things would happen, as his view of private business was so deeply naive. His supposed master work is far less critical and realistic even than Adam Smith, who, in a radically different context with a very different purpose, had written a far subtler, more open-ended, and altogether better defense of business ascendance 168 years before Hayek’s book became the favored intellectual cover for American capitalism.
Even though Hayek framed socialism as a question of class analysis — he equated all possible forms of socialism and even welfare states with feudal servitude — he remained utterly denialist that capitalism is itself a form of class domination, albeit one operating as much through the power relations of “the free market” as through state power. Hence, here is the hugely ironic — and hilariously embarrassing to Hayek and Hayekians — cartoon from his GM-pushed comic book on the topic of “recreation” planning by the overclass:
“Once started, planners can’t stop.” Precisely, Freidrich, precisely! It’s called the marketing race, a.k.a. the primary form of big business competition. It is quite literally built into corporate capitalism, and can only stop upon the death of that system or the planet on which it operates, whichever comes first.
Having lost its grifting, grafting hedge-fund-running czar, and having been relieved of its financial responsibility for the skein of toxic waste dumps it has left across North America, the “new” General Motors returns its attention to the true meat of its work. Yep, billion-dollar brainwashing:
DETROIT — Spending for General Motors Co.’s new Chevy advertising blitz that starts tonight during the World Series is expected to top the $685 million the brand spent in all of 2008, GM marketing boss Joel Ewanick said today.
Chevy television spots from Goodby featuring voiceovers from Michigan-native actor Tim Allen will air tonight when the San Francisco Giants host the Texas Rangers at 8 p.m. on Fox.
The campaign, which employs the slogan “Chevy Runs Deep” and the brand’s iconic bowtie logo, emphasizes the Chevrolet’s long history while touting new technology and safety.
Goodby called Chevy’s heritage a “tiebreaker” in competing with other automakers and said the cars are “beautiful, productive machines.”
One commercial shows a montage of old and new Chevy trucks with dogs, Hank Williams singing “Movin’ On Over” and Allen’s lone line, “A dog and a Chevy. What else do you need?”
And some say corporate capitalism has reached its senescence…
In a follow-up to our last post, here’s today’s news:
Pay czar open to raising salary limits for new hires
November 13, 2009 – 12:01 am ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Two days after GM Chairman Ed Whitacre said the government should loosen its restrictions on executive pay for bailed-out companies, the White House pay czar signaled his willingness to raise salary caps for new hires.
SEGUIN, Texas (Reuters) — General Motors Co. Chairman Ed Whitacre on Tuesday urged the Obama administration to give the automaker less restrictive pay caps and said it was too early to discuss the timing for the automaker to become a public company again.
Cash salaries for the top executives were cut by 31 percent, and only one unnamed executive besides Henderson will be paid more than $500,000 for 2009.
Whitacre said that $500,000 limit made hiring from outside difficult, and he urged a reconsideration of the limits set by the Treasury Department’s special master Kenneth Feinberg. (Source: Automotive News, November 11, 2009)
And what would we all do without glorious breakthroughs like the AT&T-Bell South merger? Sure, 10,000 people lost their jobs in that process, and it also further entrenched the institutional basis for the world’s highest telecommunications bills.
But, look, those things are good for investors, aren’ t they? And, just as anybody can sleep under a bridge, soare we all perfectly free to become major investors. All you have to do is get yourself $10 or 20 million to get yourself started.
And Ed and his pals probably lost a lot of their $61 million pay packets last year, too, right? Just like the rest of us, right? Aren’t you down to your last few dozen millions yourself? I know I am.
Besides, it’s got to be a rather thankless task, this acting as the funeral director who keeps insisting the guy in the box is still alive…