Mat Van Den Art's Blog

2.1 Capitalism and Advertising

Posted in MDes Dissertation by matvandenart on August 11, 2010

Modern consumption is dependent on an actualized aesthetic gratification derived from the possession of or dynamic ‘encounter’ with the commodity itself. This dependence makes the commodity susceptible to dialectical critique since the desire gratified through ‘false’ or manipulated satisfactions involves a substitution that can be deconstructed for its mass utopian content.10

Post-modernistic product or idea advertising in the digital era does not any more rely on words but rather on symbols suggesting the qualities associated with the subject of advertising. It is commonplace to recognize in contemporary digital media culture a tendency toward ‘hyperreality’ 11, which is associated with the greatly expanded and intensified use of images in all areas of communication and culture.


Video 7 )

The dominance of an ‘eye candy’ culture seems to degrade the importance of reality based on measurable facts. Open image interpretation de-emphasizes the cognitive generation of meaning which from the doom of civilization has been achieved through the linguistically mediated logic of text or speech. Because of the nature of interpretation reliant upon audiences past experiences or current interests it is very difficult to extract the truth logic from the image. Consumers exposed to ‘interactive’ image culture are expected and encouraged to respond with ever increasing ‘interpretive reflexivity’ deceiving our inborn sense of ‘communicative action'(Habermas) and deluding our logic and concentration from the cognitive generation of meaning.

Video 8 )

German sociologist and philosopher Jürgen Habermas in his research of communicative action maintains that the rationality of communication is logically different from any other rationalities as function, strategy, instrument, power, domination or exclusion. Habermas regards the linguistic medium to be primary, if not dominant, in rational social coordination.12 Habermas argues that the human language evolution and it’s use is fundamentally oriented toward ‘reaching understanding and agreement’ (Verständigung) among communicating subjects.’13 Interpretive activity’ encouraged by the communication or collaboration oriented towards mutual understanding and agreement through linguistic exchange is what Habermas calls ‘communicative action.’

Problem occurs when human society whose communication evolution is based on rationality as a capacity within language, mainly in the form of argumentation is faced with advertising forms of communication, such as pure goal-oriented behaviour in form of image culture producing unmeasurable interpretation.

Myers suggests “as text suggest an attitude, a point of view, and a form of address, so can pictures. And as words play with meanings and associations, so can pictures.”14 That is why it is vital to be conscious of the function and power that is given to the image within the broader socio-advertising context of post-modernistic consumer oriented society.

When we are faced with images rather than linguistic facts, our inborn rational ability of argumentation and decision becomes easily deceived by our optimism and trust. Once deceived our rationality becomes captive of our interpretation.

Horkheimer and Adorno had argued that the Habermas in his book Enlightenment saw a particular kind of rationality enshrined as dominant in western culture, instrumental reason, which had only made possible the more effective and ruthless manipulation of nature and human beings themselves.15



10) Susan Buck-Morss, The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project; MIT Press; 1999.

11) Jean Baudrillard, Simmulations.Stanford (NY): Semiotext(e); 1983.

12) Jürgen Habermas, Theory of Communicative Action, trans. Thomas McCarthy, Boston: Beacon Press; 1984,.

13) Jürgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, trans. Thomas McCarthy, Cambridge MA: MIT Press; 1991.

14) Greg Myers . “Words in Ads Routledge” London New York (NY): Arnold; 1994.

15) Adorno and Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment, trans. Edmund Jephcott, Palo Alto: Stanford UP; 2002.

Video 7 ) Coca Cola Commercial.. Coca Cola; 2007 Jan [cited 2010 July 25]. Available from:

Video 8 ) Communication is Power: Mass Media and Mass Persuasion. . Center for Humanities; 2009 Jan[cited 2010 July 25]. Available from:


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  1. Content « Mat Van Den Art's Blog said, on August 11, 2010 at 10:50 pm

    […] 2.1     Capitalism and Advertising […]

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