Capitalism 3.0: “Doing God’s Work”
Back in 2009, Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, courted derision and aroused incredulity with his claim that Goldman Sachs was “Doing God’s Work“.
It retrospect, it seems that most people mistook his actual meaning in saying that. Ironically, it’s true. Capitalism 3.0 is positioning itself as a religion. This is, I think, that essential “fraud” in all contemporary brand advertising that Michael Schudson recognised and acknowledged in his Advertising, the Uneasy Persuasion, but couldn’t quite identify. “Marketing 3.0” and Capitalism 3.0 can hardly be different, after all. When Tom Frank penned his book One Market Under God, he really did touch upon the issue of Capitalism 3.0 — the deliberate and conscious programme of mystification to sacralise and divinise corporate power and power relations in the twenty-first century.
That’s what marketing 3.0 or “holistic branding” is — the sacralisation of capitalism, the divinisation of the corporatocracy. The association of the “holistic” with the holy should be evident. And, in fact, in Brand Sense, Martin Lindstrom makes this all rather explicit — “holistic branding” as “brand religion”. The corporations are being re-positioned as Houses of the Holy — the new temples of the “archetypes”, the deities — gods and goddesses — called “brand personalities” in the pantheon of the Adverse. This is, of course, neo-paganism, where the ancient symbol of the ouroboros now becomes the “virtuous cycle” of capitalism.
This mystification of power is the meaning of “technocratic shamanism”.
Firstly, let’s once again examine this alleged progression of the marketing imperative from marketing 1.0 to marketing 2.0 to marketing 3.0. Capitalism 1.0 was the stage of mass production of goods and services and the organisation of channels of transportation and distribution. The focus was on the product. This is the stage prior to the Second World War. Capitalism 2.0 was the shift to the mass manufacture of consumers and “the engineering of consent”. The focus was on “motivational research” and “psychological marketing”. This begins in the 1950s, a time when books like Vance Packard’s The Hidden Persuaders begin to express great uneasiness about advertising and branding. The problem and challenge for “marketing 2.0” is how to overcome “sales resistance” amongst the public and to make “hedonism” respectable, as motivational researcher Dr. Ernest Dichter expressed it — to make self-display, self-promotion, self-aggrandisement through new habits of consumption respectable in the face of resistance from remnants of “the Puritan ethos”.
If Capitalism 1.0 (and marketing 1.0) coincides with the aftermath of the First World War, and Capitalism 2.0 (and marketing 2.0) coincides with the aftermath of the Second World War, Capitalism 3.0 (and marketing 3.0) coincides with the aftermath of the end of the Cold War and Fukuyama’s triumphalist declaration of “the end of history”. But also implied in that “end of history” is Nietzsche’s earlier announcement of “the death of God”. The “death of God” becomes a marketing and commercial opportunity. If Capitalism 2.0 was concerned to sell a “way of life” — consumerism — Capitalism 3.0 is now focussed on selling itself as a “reason for being” — the “marketing of meaning”. Marketers are no longer just “perception managers” alone, but the makers and managers of meaning.
If “God is dead”, they will become God, lawgivers to the public through the magic of the marketplace and the metaphysics of shopping. And there’s no question that some brandmeisters are so enamoured of themselves and their own power to legislate consumer behaviour that they believe government and elections now to be an anachronism. To quote one approving comment from Rolf Jensen in Margaret Mark and Carol Pearson’s The Hero and the Outlaw (a book which exploits Jung’s psychology for purposes of brand merchandising),
“In The Dream Society, Rolf Jensen predicts that before long, brands will be seen as the owners of meaningful stories, not products. The most compelling stories are those which communicate some value that ennobles life. ‘The battle of the twenty-first century,’ he writes, ‘will be found on a microfront where the bone of contention is the individual’s attention.’ ‘Companies,’ he continues, ‘will gradually enter the market for convictions’ primarily because ‘the customer wants it. When you are no longer that preoccupied with politicians’ vast smorgasbord of ideological systems and more or less vapid visions, then you no longer just vote in the polling both on election day; you vote every day, with your shopping cart.'” (quoted, pp. 120-121)
Nothing better expresses the devaluation of political constituencies as useless affectations and the elevation of communities of consumption. You’re permitted to challenge everything with your shopping cart but actual political arrangements. Your shopping cart alone is your kingly chariot = heroic shopping is the essence of your quest.
Let’s examine some of the stranger elements of magic and myth that inform this new religion of consumer capitalism:
Consumerism as theophagy: theophagy is the act of eating a god, consuming a god. The most famous example is the transubtantiation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ; or Christ’s turning of water into wine. That belongs to magic, like the alchemists turning of lead into gold. The transubstantion of commodities into “brand personalities” with divine attributes (sugar water transubstantiated into a potion and the elixir of youth and life like Pepsi, for example) invokes magic and religious practice, consciously. The association of brands with deities (Nike for example, winged goddess of victory) or Ivory with innocence and purification is magical transubstantiation — ritual purification of the soul. “Brand personalities” are consecrated as deities, their consumption is a sacrament of theophagy which results in the consumer taking in the mana — the particular virtue or potency — of the god or goddess, which is the meaning of the word “enthusiast” — “en-theos“, a “god within”. Consumption of the brand as “a bearer of meaning” becomes an act of communion with the god — consumerism becomes a sacrament of theophagy.
The famous “golden arches” aren’t just the logo of McDonald’s. They are re-positioned as “the gateway to paradise”, invoking the “pearly gates”. So Mark and Pearson would have it.
The use of Jung’s archetypes in branding and in constructing “the Omnipowerful Brand” (Frank Delano) by deliberately associating the brand name, brand image, and brand “personality” with some god or goddess of antiquity, or some magical virtue and essence, is the consecration of that commodity, basically transforming it into a relic, an icon, a power object, and a fetish. This consecration or sacralisation of the brand name is the promotion of superstition and cult, and is done deliberately to try and effect “brand loyalty”. The brand is supposed to serve the same vicarious purpose as, say, a child’s teddy bear symbolising Mother love (Mark & Pearson); or, one might add, Linus’ security blanket from the Peanuts cartoons.
The corporation as “temple”: the corporation as “manager of the meaning” of the brand becomes the high temple of the deity, Houses of the Holy as custodians of the deity’s cult and of its abode on earth. (I’m not making this up either). Even to question this is sacrilege.
Mark and Pearson identify “twelve” archetypes gleaned from Jung’s archetypal psychology that form effective brand identities and personalities. They are Creator, Caregiver, Ruler, Jester, Regular Guy/Gal, Lover, Hero, Outlaw, Magician, Innocent, Explorer, and Sage. This number “twelve” is no accident. Nor are the “twelve” elements of effective brands in Martin Lindstom’s “holistic branding”. It is gleaned from religion — the commercialisation of the Christian saints and of what Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy also called “The Twelve Tones of the Spirit”.
There’s more, and I will get around to them in due course. But I would say that this truly does count as “profanation” of the spiritual. And the brandmeisters seem quite confident they can get away with it.
Their rationale for doing this is interesting: people are looking for meaning and purpose in their lives. They are looking for fulfillment and wholeness. Capitalism 3.0, as “the management of meaning”, is only providing a service in “helping” the consumer to “freely” achieve “self-actualisation” or “self-realisation” and so find meaning, purpose and complete fulfillment, ie, a “reason for being” through what is essentially theophagy, and through what I have called “the magic of the market and the metaphysics of shopping”. This rationale is totally fraudulent — a total lie, as I intend to reveal in subsequent posts. Capitalism 1.0 made a total claim on the human body. Capitalism 2.0 made a total claim on the human mind. Capitalism 3.0 now makes a total claim on the human soul. It’s not meant to liberate but to enslave.