I’ve been reading in Richard Stivers’ book Technology as Magic: The Triumph of the Irrational as part of my inquiries into the meaning of “marketing 3.0” (also called “holistic branding” or “spiritual marketing”), and while I’m only in the early pages of the book I thought I would share some of his insights as they pertain to this issue of “technocratic shamanism” diagnosed by Algis Mickunas in his aforementioned Gebser-influenced essay, “Magic and Technological Culture”. Stivers’ approach to the issue is sociological rather than what we might call “cultural”, and he was not, apparently, familiar with Jean Gebser and Gebser’s cultural philosophy of civilisations as consciousness structures.
That is both an advantage and a disadvantage: a disadvantage in that the book could have been immeasurably enriched by knowledge of Gebser’s psychohistory, but an advantage inasmuch as Stivers has independently corroborated, from a sociological perspective, many of the essential concepts we find in Gebser and complements them. Some of these correspondences as corroborations I will note here.
After reading Todd Stein’s “Zen Sells: How Advertising has Co-opted Spirituality” in the Buddhist magazine Lion’s Roar , I looked up the Ford Ranger ad he discussed in the article as an example of the co-optation of the spiritual. It was a fortuitous discovery because I am working through some of the archetypal themes of “the sacred mountain” in my investigations into marketing 3.0 or “spiritual marketing” (or “holistic branding”). Although crude by some standards of “spiritual marketing”, the Ford ad is a near perfect example of the very issues that concern me about this move to “holistic branding” or capitalism 3.0.
Here it is….
For the sake of the numerous new subscribers to The Chrysalis, I want tell the backstory for the blog — the reason why I launched the blog, (as well as the late and now retired Dark Age Blog), and why I pursue the issues that I do in The Chrysalis. Older readers of The Chrysalis, (and indeed some who have been around since The Dark Age Blog) will remember it as my “Dream of the Fish”. It bears repeating on occasion, if only to remind myself why I’m doing the things I do. Besides, with the retelling of the story I always seem to discover new and intriguing aspects to it.
I was doing some research this morning into the third temptation of Christ, as part of my investigation of “marketing 3.0”. And in the the course of that research — the purpose of which I’ll make clear later — I came across this curious and very mysterious issue connected with the trial of Jesus by Pontius Pilate.
I’m sure you are all familiar with the tale. The authorities submit the condemned men, Jesus and the “robber” Barabbas, to the judgement of the crowd and ask which they would have freed. It was, according to some records a custom during Passover known as the Paschal Pardon. The crowd yells “Give us Barabbas”, subsequently sealing the fate of Jesus.
Here things get very murky indeed, because up until the third century of the Christian Era, the full name of “Barabbas” was recorded and known as “Jesus Barabbas”, and the very name “Barabbas” means “son of the father” — bar Abba.
The domineering kind of predatory and vulture capitalism that still prevails in neo-liberal globalisation, and which we call today “the corporatocracy”, must be put to an end. It can only come to an end when the corporation willingly subordinates itself to the ideal of an Earth Community and a Universal Humanity, and not as a self-justification for the primacy of the irreponsible self-interest. “Social Business Enterprise” (SBE) or “Social Enterprise” are two models of a healthier and more responsive and responsible form of the corporation in which the corporate form truly serves, and subordinates itself to the higher and nobler ideals of Earth Community and Universal Humanity.
Taming the corporate dragon, which it presently is, means foregoing the social philosophy of competitive egoism and the fake “virtue of selfishness” that drives the culture of narcissism. Any real change in the fundamental social philosophy that underlies acquisitive or possessive individualism as the norm of social conduct (consumerism) requires a new orientation of consciousness — a metanoia. That new orientation of consciousness is evident in the new models of Social Business Enterprise or Social Enterprise or Open Source, which are truer more authentic collaborative and sustainable ideals and models of socio-economic activity.
The “private enterprise” — the enterprise of the self-interest and acquisitive individualism — was formerly treated as synonymous with the “free enterprise”. That is a phoney issue and a deliberate obfuscation. It is no such thing. Anyone who thinks that this “private enterprise” has truly expanded the realm of human spiritual freedom to any significant extent (freedom for the “animal spirits” exempted) is deluded. It has made people slaves of their own appetitive natures.
Social Enterprise differs in not being a giant Ego. It’s very name recognises its social obligations and its self-understanding as embedded in a community or a world community, and not as if it were a giant Ego with pretenses to being a god — an “immortal person”. The Social Enterprise is the model of future.
Of course, every vulture and predatory corporation is going to try to “position” itself now as a “Social Enterprise”, and that’s much the meaning of so-called “spiritual marketing” or “marketing 3.0”. It will probably successfully deceive many. How to recognise whether it’s authentic or not? Well… the old rule of thumb: “by their fruits shall you know them,” and certainly not from their public relations or advertising or deftness in the black arts of “perception management”.
Think of the permutations of the act of “turning” — Latin vertere meaning “to turn” forming the stem word for other words like universe, converse, reverse, inverse, transverse, introvert, extrovert, divert, averse, subvert, pervert, and advert. The affixes uni-, con-, re-, trans-, intro-, in-, extro-, di-, a- and per-, ad-, sub-, and so on differentiate or articulate the stem word in various degrees and acts of turning. “Universe” got its name from the perception of the unity of motion in the Turning when the Earth was still considered the centre of the universe and the heavens moved about it in cyclic regularities. The minimum unit of time for the universe was a full day, dawn to dawn or dusk to dusk — one full turn of the sky. Like the “verse” or chorus of a song, or music, it had an harmonious, unitary and recurrent rhythm and tempo. The Universe and the Wheel of Space and Time or the Sun Wheel symbol are the same notion of the Turning, as is the ancient symbol of the ouroboros. It was a “kosmos“, as the Greeks called Universe, or harmonious “order”.
The word “advert” is a peculiar one because it bears a double entendre — it means not only to “turn to” or “turn towards”, but also “turn against”. Adverse is different from averse in the sense that the a- prefix in relation to the turning implies action in the other direction — away from, as something repellent or off-putting.
I woke up this morning thinking about an incident about which I read in my university days. I can’t recall in which book it is retold, but I think it was in cultural anthropologist Edward T. Hall’s The Hidden Dimension. (The Hidden Dimension is, by the way, a great book on the more unconscious aspects of culture, and is an important counterpart to Vance Packard’s The Hidden Persuaders, since the persuaders largely work with this “dimension”. It is also available online. This is also the fundamental ambiguity of “branding”. It does “mirror” in the sense that it makes these hidden aspects of culture more explicit, so you can learn to read advertising in that way — as revealing. But at the same time, it depends on them remaining “hidden” in order for branding to be effective!).
In any case, the incident I’m thinking about happened to, if I recall correctly, the anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski (or perhaps it was Franz Boas) while he was resident amongst an aboriginal tribe on the West Coast.