Human Engineering: From Archetype to Average
Let me introduce you to “Joe and Josephine”. It’s probably important to get to know Joe and Josephine because they are the Adam and Eve of the contemporary commercial universe of cultural engineering. And comparing this new “Adam and Eve” or the “average Joe” and the “average Josephine” with earlier representations of Adam and Eve will give you a pretty good idea of what Gebser means by the “deficient mode” of the mental-rational consciousness structure.
So, here’s Joe and Josephine… the new “human brand”
The new “primordial parents” are no longer archetypes but averages. They float in a sea of numbers and ratios, all rather meaningless except for the purpose of what is called “consumer engineering” or “human engineering”. To see what has happened to the human form, compare Joe and Josephine with the representation of Adam and Eve from the Renaissance (Carnach)
Here, the primordial parents are human archetypes, rather than human averages, and rather than being surrounded by measures and ratios, they are surrounded by symbols and symbolic forms. Between what we might call the “effective” phase of the perspectival consciousness and the “deficient” phase of the perspectival consciousness, something has happend to the human form. It has been reduced to measure and mass and average. In fact, Joe and Josephine are said to have the “IQ” of a thirteen year old child (which is why all those ads seem so immature and insulting to some). Joe and Josephine are the result of polling, interviewing, questionnaires, tallying, monitoring, surveilling, audience measurements, focus group testing, standardisation, and so on — the completely “rationalised” human form. Joe and Josephine are purely technical beings.
The primordial parents, mythically speaking, are the symbolic forms of what Jung calls “the animus” and “the anima” principles, and also have their symbolic representation in the Hermetic Philosophy (Alchemy),
I will have more to say about Joe and Josephine in future posts. I just wanted to introduce them to you here as exemplary of the kinds of problems that the “deficient mode” of the mental-rational consciousness generates. And especially in terms of this reduction of the archetypal human to the abstract human “average” or “mean”. It seems almost invariably the case that when our “cultural engineers” and brandmeisters speak of how advertising is “democratic”, they mean by this the growing resemblance of everyone to Joe and Josephine — rationalised beings conceived in terms of mass and measure, and well-adapted to its purely rationalised and technical social environment. Joe and Josephine are the Adam and Eve of this strange, contemporary universe. But they are also caricatures of the human.
What’s happened to the word “democratic” is very akin and parallel to what has happened to the word “economic”. Does anyone remember when “economical” meant “frugal” or “avoiding waste”? Hardly what comes to mind these days when “economy” is spoken of, and which has become synonymous with consumption, the disposable, and the wasteful.