ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel


Updated on July 17, 2012

As I congratulate my mother-in-law on her birthday, I diligently try to hide the overwhelming guilt that is the result of my consumerist mindset. While the thrill of gift hunting has filled my browser's history pages, I have failed to buy her a gift. This year's birthday wish has been left hanging with no wrapped box to accompany it.

Gift giving is a social bonding medium and its value has been recognized by cultures throughout human history. Yet, the social value of gift giving does not justify the consumerism that surrounds gift buying and shopping in general. It is difficult to blame the consumer. After all a consumer fighting against consumerism is like a swimmer going against the current. If not deadly, it is certainly exhausting. Products are sold by creating images that appeal to public's emotional and psychological states. The desire to achieve the described states blindly walks people into the turmoil of consumption. It would, however, be unfair to blame the advertising agencies who create the ads. They are only the middle men in the transaction between the producer and the consumer.

The true guilty parties in this situation are the corporations and the government. Although the United States is a capitalistic country where companies are privately owned, their interests often cross paths creating a powerful force difficult to challenge. In today's presidential elections 7 figure numbers are often cited for the amount that a presidential candidate was able to raise in a given month. These figures alone demonstrate the strong connection between corporations and the government. At the crossroads of their interests sometimes lies a single solution. Revenue generation is the interest of corporations, satisfied citizenry is the interest of the government. However different these two goals may seem, they have been found to have the same solution. Advertising has successfully linked products and ideologies, such that use of an everyday product can come to have a greater ideological satisfaction for the user.

Lucky Strike Ad
Lucky Strike Ad | Source
MaxfactorAd1955 | Source

Edward Bernay introduced the idea of social control through psychology in the early 1920s after WWI. According to his uncle Sigmund Freud, people were inherently dangerous; therefore, society must suppress the animal within the human. In the era of democracy, it would have been impossible to control people directly through coercion. People strongly believed that they lived in a state of freedom, and that authorities did not have a right to suppress them. Therefore, Bernay came up with a way to control the masses by appealing to their desires and immediately satisfying those desires with material goods. Cigarettes suddenly came to represent equality for women. Lipstick ads featured empowerment of women over men. “Sure way to tie him up” (1955, MaxFactor Ad). Consumption of products promising equality, power, love, intimacy, etc themselves create an illusionary life for those who purchase the products in hopes of gaining the advertised emotions. Tangible products have come to fill voids left from the lack of emotional satisfaction.

Philip Cushman states, “---the current self is constructed as empty, and as a result the state controls its population not by restricting the impulses of its citizens, as in Victorian times, but by creating and manipulating their wish to be soothed, organized, and made cohesive by momentarily filling them up”. The empty self according to Cushman is a self without a culture and context. It is a self that is robbed of traditional values and morals and instead is being continuously filled up by irrelevant goods that are someway appealing to the consumer’s emotions. According to Cushman with the expansion of consumerist society, the tradition and a sense of a community began to disappear.

This is exactly what the government desires; a group of people all guided with their self-interests and having no grounds for formation of a community. Thus the shaping of an “empty self” could be viewed as governmental policy. It is desirable for a government to have an unorganized and incommunicable society, since then there is no real threat to its authority from single individuals.

Advertising agencies claim that though people do not like to be told what to do, they like to be directed. Advertisers do exactly this. They direct the potential buyer to a longed psychological state with a sole purpose of selling the product. Yet the problem I see is not in the fashion of advertising, but rather in the reasons that it has been so successful. Ads are successful, because people are unhappy. Whether they are unhappy with their personal lives or their rights as citizens, is another issue. The fact is that both cooperations and government benefits from the illusionary happiness and satisfaction products create.

What are your thoughts on the subject?


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)