The Shepherd and the Wolf
There is as much wolf in shepherd as shepherd in wolf. I once pointed that out to a man whose social and political thinking had been largely shaped, it seems, by notions of “the Good Shepherd”, until I pointed out that the good shepherd and the big bad wolf have exactly the same interest in the flock — to fleece it. Their ways of predation are simply different. I think the poor man was shattered by the realisation that the good shepherd is as much a predator as the big bad wolf. A lot of political thinking, though, is based on the presumption that the good shepherd and the big bad wolf are opposites.
Nietzsche employed the example of the eagle rather than the wolf, perhaps because so many of the imperial households of Europe used the eagle as their crest and totem animal. The noble eagle flies highest, and like the smoke of incense, carries the prayers of men to the high gods. But the eagle is also a pest and a predator, especially for shepherds, since it preys on the lambs. But then, so does the shepherd.
So much of our orientation towards politics and political leaders is shaped by the parable of the Good Shepherd (and the influence of dualistic thinking) that we tend to overlook the fact that the shepherd is as much a predator as the wolf or the eagle, and perhaps even more of a predator than either — more cunning than the wolf or eagle.
I wanted to raise this irony once again since coming upon Lindstrom’s Brand Sense (as I commented upon in the last post) and his “holistic branding” approach to marketing and perception management which, in some ways, constitute an innovation in the technology of social management and control. Since reading Brand Sense, I have realised that I need to immerse myself in contemporary developments in corporate communications, propaganda, and branding; particularly as regards the systematic usurpation and appropriation of religion for purposes of social and political influence, persuasion, and perception management. I had already noticed this in much propaganda before, but it was never really so brazenly or overtly exploitative of the human spiritual as that proposed as “integral” or “holistic branding”.
I’ve since discovered that Mr. Lindstrom is not a “one-off” in that respect. “Holistic branding” is even being referred to by others as “Marketing 3.0” to distinguish it from earlier approaches to branding. Branding expert Philip Kotler has written a book entitled “Marketing 3.0” and the subtitle pretty much says it all “From Products to Customers to the Human Spirit” (and, of course, I had to order it). “Holistic branding” even has its own entry in Wikipedia and is now recognised as the latest “stage” in the evolution of marketing.
Then there’s Thom Braun, author of The Philosophy of Branding, (which I also had to order). Mr. Braun has a peculiar background. He is director of Unilever’s Global Marketing Academy as well as being an ordained priest in the Church of England — a rather peculiar convergence of interests.
It seems that, at the end of history, religion has become big business even as big business now becomes religion. If “profanation” still has any meaning in our cynical times, this usurpation of religion by the corporation certainly looks like the profanation of the spiritual. And it occurred to me, as I pondered that, that this is very much what Jean Gebser means by a “structure of consciousness” that begins to function in “deficient mode”. “Profanation” may very well be used synonymously with “deficient”.
So, what does “Marketing 3.0” really amount to? The Corporation is attempting to seize and usurp authority away from both State and Church both. That’s what I understand by the terms “neo-liberalism”, “corporatocracy”, or “techno-corporate state”. And whether this is due to the weakness of the institutions of State and Church, government and religion, or is a deliberate coup against State and Church remains, I think, an open question. There’s no question, though, but that the Corporation is positioning itself to supplant both government and religion as “the good shepherd”. “Marketing 3.0” is simply part of that usurpation of authority and legitimacy. The Corporation is essentially making the claim to be the only truly “universal” human institution of the global era.
That’s pretty much the metanarrative implied in the whole practice of “holistic branding”. One can’t overlook the connection between the meanings “holy” and “holistic” after all. Certainly Mr. Lindstrom doesn’t. The merit of his book (and perhaps the others I’ve yet to explore) is that he makes this implicit metanarrative explicit. Corporations must become, he says, the new temples, mosques, churches, and synagogues. And one might say in any case, the situation has been clearly moving in that direction for some time now (having already compromised and co-opted the State). “Branding” is really a mask for the metanarrative which insists that this new social and political arrangement represents the best of all possible worlds — the promise of “the perfect life”.
It is, and has been, very effective too. It’s called “consumerism”. Branding and consumerism are, of course, the contemporary dialectic — the two-headed monster. Those who question this as profanation are treated as blasphemers and heretics, or “extremists”. Few seem to question whether “brand religion” (and the cult of the brand) and consumerism as religion aren’t themselves the “abomination of desolation”.
I think it’s safe to say that “holistic branding” (“integral branding”, or “marketing 3.0”) represents the “deficient” aspect of the integral, which is the confusion of the whole with the mere totality and that very many are being deceived by this. I hope to be more clear about this as I immerse myself further in the contemporary “branding philosophy”.
I also think, though, that for Gebserians, this imitation or pretense of “the integral” or “holism” is far more challenging to the emergence of authentic integral consciousness than the disintegrative aspects of Late Modernity or the “post-Enlightenment”. The ironic reversal here being that, while the Enlightenment sought to dispel cult, fetish, and superstition as mass phenomena, contemporary branding seeks to cultivate and restore cult, fetish, and superstition — and seems to be doing it rather effectively.
But, as is said “Satan is ever only the ape of God” — a mimic.