Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Quotes on therapeutic consumerism

Hannah Arendt:

"It is also true that there is a certain element of violence in the imaginative exaggerations of publicity men, that behind the assertion that girls who do not use this particular brand of soap may go through life with pimples and without a husband, lies the wild dream of monopoly, the dream that one day the manufacturer of the 'only soap that prevents pimples' may have the power to deprive of husbands all girls who don't use his soap.

Erich Fromm:

"This situation is still more emphasized by the methods of modern advertising. The sales talk of the old-fashioned businessman was essentially rational. He knew his merchandise, he knew the needs of the customer, and on the basis of this knowledge he tried to sell. To be sure, his sales talk was not entirely objective and he used persuasion as much as he could; yet, in order to be efficient, it had to be a rather rational and sensible kind of talk. A vast sector of modern advertising is different; it does not appeal to reason but to emotion; like any other kind of hypoid suggestion, it tries to impress its objects emotionally and then make them submit intellectually. This type of advertising impresses the customer by all sorts of means: by repetition of the same formula again and again; by the influence of an authoritative image, like that of a society lady or of a famous boxer, who smokes a certain brand of cigarette; by attracting the customer and at the same time weakening his critical abilities by the sex appeal of a pretty girl; by terrorizing him with the threat of “b.o.” or “halitosis”; or yet again by stimulating daydreams about a sudden change in one’s whole course of life brought about by buying a certain shirt or soup. All these methods are essentially irrational; they have nothing to do with the qualities of the merchandise, and they smother and kill the critical capacities of the customer like an opiate or outright hypnosis. They give him a certain satisfaction by their daydreaming qualities just as the movies do, but at the same time they increase his feeling of smallness and powerlessness."

Jim Wallis:

”If you just drink this beer, use this toothpaste, drive this car, wear this perfume, or buy these jeans, this can be your life, too. Is this not the essence of idolatry--a misdirected form of worship?

But these promises are an illusion, a mirage that is very dangerous. All of life has been reduced to consumption. We sacrifice our souls for the mirage of glittering images, and all we get is a mouthful of sand. We have run after mirages in the desert, and now the desert is in us.”


Hannah Arendt. The Burden of Our Time. London: Secker and Warburg, 1951. Published in the US as The Origins of Totalitarianism. p 336.

Erich Fromm. Escape from Freedom. New York: Avon, 1941. p. 149.

Jim Wallis. The Soul of Politics: Beyond "Religious Right" and "Secular Left". New York: Harvest, 1995. p. 168.

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