The pervasiveness of advertising in the modern world is one of the key features of the consumerist economy. Rarely do people today make decisions on what to buy without the aid of the information provided by advertising on all forms of media. …
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The pervasiveness of advertising in the modern world is one of the key features of the consumerist economy. Rarely do people today make decisions on what to buy without the aid of the information provided by advertising on all forms of media. The consumer and the producer are the two parties in the exchange - and each party, on the part of the consumer, his wants and needs and the producer, on his part, the goods or services to give form to those wants and needs. Apparently, the market acts as the clearing ground for this exchange and both parties are satisfied. The role of advertising in the market is purportedly for the purpose of the consumers making informed choices on the myriad of products and services that are available. This is based on the assumption that people more or less know what they want and that producers make available to consumers as much as possible information about the product, within the framework of encapsulating the needs of the consumer. When a situation arises, when these assumptions are questioned, both parties are in danger - on the part of the consumers, vulnerable to undue influence or manipulation as to their needs and wants, and on the part of producers, prone to charges of exploitation and manipulation.In the article, The Dependence Effect by John Kenneth Galbraith, states that modern advertising and salesmanship are the vehicles for which production creates, not merely communicates, the needs and wants that present-day consumers come to identify as their own. He further charges more categorically that "their central function is to create desires - to bring into being wants that previously did not exist." This statement calls into question the assumption of current theory of consumer demand that rests on "independently determined desires", the primary cause that determines the effect of goods being available in the market. If the arrow of the relationship switches, with the producer, through the instruments of advertising and marketing, becoming the creator of the cause of the demand - then the consumer buying goods, has become, rather the effect. The consumer, in this light, has become, a mere automaton, a human being stripped of his freedom, not only to choose, but more likely, inwardly, a being who has lost grip of his primary needs and wants. With the most profitable corporations in today's world, also increasingly the biggest spenders on adverting, and if the scenario of the loss of consumer of freedom holds, then human beings on a wide scale are in danger of becoming mass robots, mere puppets to satisfy the greed of corporations. Galbraith, further raises the specter of public services, becoming more and more neglected as private wants dependent on the output of producers - the case of "an implacable tendency to provide an opulent supply of some things and a niggardly yield of others." This situation, according to the author further leads to social and economic problems as consumers under the influence of the process of production creating more artificial desires fail to make the choice to satisfy their desires for public goods and services.
Galbraith has delved into two main critiques: one that, advertising is actually involved in desire creation, rather than the purported function of providing information to the consumers; and two, that in the case of the facts - the amount spent on advertising as indicators of their big role in the production process and in creation of artificial desires, the dependency effect is an overwhelming evidence that producers or the process of production "determines" consumer demands and needs.
In response to the first critique, Robert Arrington, provides a more nuanced approach to the charge of advertising controlling the buying behavior of consumers (Advertising and Behavior Control). He examines the concept of autonomy, being "complex and multifaceted". In the case of desire, being autonomous, that is coming independently from the consumer - in reality, he writes, desire can be induced, but this
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