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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Consumer society revealed
This book is a penetrating analysis of the origins of our mass-culture, consumerist society. First, the author debunks the notion that consumerism was a natural technological development or clearly represents progress.
The author makes evident that the captions of industry sought to exert control over the entire social milieu beginning in the 1920s. Their foremost...
Published on August 23, 2001 by J. Grattan

versus
8 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Social Commentary from a Marxist
To appreciate this book you need have at least a general understand of the work of Karl Marx because the book is written from a Marxist perspective. From this 'perspective' the author is able to draw certain conclusions about American society (or a capitalist society) in which a reader may mistakenly infer as to the intent of the actual participants of that society. Its...
Published on March 26, 2007 by anonymous reviewer


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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Consumer society revealed, August 23, 2001
By 
J. Grattan (Lawrenceville, GA USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Captains Of Consciousness Advertising And The Social Roots Of The Consumer Culture (Paperback)
This book is a penetrating analysis of the origins of our mass-culture, consumerist society. First, the author debunks the notion that consumerism was a natural technological development or clearly represents progress.
The author makes evident that the captions of industry sought to exert control over the entire social milieu beginning in the 1920s. Their foremost project was to define American life as consumerism. Consumption was marketed as far more than acquiring the essentials of life; it was a means to transform one's life: to achieve social esteem, to escape otherwise mediocre, humdrum lives. It was very much an individualistic approach to life in contrast to the traditional focus on small communities or extended families.
Industrialism was not easily swallowed by workers of the 19th and early 20th century. Traditional social bonds became irrelevant in factory production. Also under scientific management work was systematically deskilled and redefined by management. The strike wave of 1919 and the "Red Scare" of the early 20's convinced economic elites to set upon a course of pacification of discontented citizens in addition to measures of suppression.
The advertising in the 20's tried to convince that the mass production of consumable items was of tremendous benefit to society. The "freedom" of workers as consumers to transform their lives more than offset the actual loss of control over work processes. Every effort was made to see that mass-culture goods penetrated and hence defined all areas of life. Non-acceptance of that corporate-defined world was not viewed kindly. Virtually all non-market activity was cast as secondary, if not illegitimate. Buying superceded voting as the means to social remedy. Even families became purchasing units.
By the 1950s the transformation of the US to a consumerist culture was virtually complete. The penetration of corporate-owned television into all households ensured that alternatives to consumerism would not surface which was a continuation of the trend of centralization of all media outlets. The free-market and free trade ideologues of the 1990s are merely following in those same footsteps.
Though written 25 years ago, this book remains relevant today. More recent authors such as Kuttner, Schiller, Lindblom, or Frank can only add to what Ewen has already said.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A pioneer history of American advertising, January 1, 1997
By A Customer
Captains of Consciousness, written more than twenty years ago, remains a classic in the field. A fascinating look at the rise of American consumer culture, the book places advertising firmly within the context of pivotal social developments that have shaped the life and mind of twentieth century America. A must read for anyone interested in understanding where we come from, where we are going
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Book on Advertising and Commercial Culture, February 17, 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Captains Of Consciousness Advertising And The Social Roots Of The Consumer Culture (Paperback)
When this book appeared twenty-five years ago, it blew my mind. Filled with amazing insights and information, it's still the best book on the topic. Provocative, thought-provoking, gutsy. Great that this new edition has appeared. It's still the book to read on the subject of advertising.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thought provoking analysis of advertising/consumer culture, April 26, 2005
Ewen's book "Captains of Consciousness" is an insightful analysis of the rise of consumerism through advertising. He starts by covering the technique and effects of mass production. Of course workers were not pleased with their dehumanizing roles in line production that made them easily replaceable. Where industrialization standardized the means of production, there was a need to modernize the consumption end of the deal; this is where advertising came into play. The book focuses on the 1920's during the advent of mass advertising. Advertising provided a desire in the public to comsume a variety of new productions as well as ameliorated a society who had become increasingly upset with the wage system. Much of the later part of the book deals with how advertising was primarily meant for women, who had become the managers of the household and responsible for most consumption. Overall, the book is well worth the read, even though it is over 25 years old. Many of the advertising tactics that Ewen speaks of, such as the youthful ideal, are still present today.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Instrumental in broadening prospective, August 27, 2007
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This review is from: Captains Of Consciousness Advertising And The Social Roots Of The Consumer Culture (Paperback)
Stuart Ewen. Captains of Consciousness. Basic Books, 2001

Preface says that some reviewers labeled the book as "Marxist". They definitely missed the point. Feeling sympathetic towards Proletariat isn't Marxism exclusive trademark. Yet the book definitely lacks the depth of economic analysis and feeling of history (including actual class struggle) to fit the best standards of historical materialism. H. Zinn's "People's History of the USA" is much more monumental in collecting the social and economical realities of the US of the period.

As M. Schudson rightfully noted, the author of "Captains" too often takes the bluffing of second-rate admen at face value as the industry's real best practices. All this comes under obvious ideological inspiration of Marcuse.

Still the book seems to be the only study of advertising history that takes into consideration the working-class, including immigrants. Virtually all others suggest that there was no life outside of "Middle Class America".

Thus "Captains" are the must for any researcher or student in advertising sociology who wants to broaden his/her prospective.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Why are 3rd World nations far less materialistic? Read This., December 6, 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Captains Of Consciousness Advertising And The Social Roots Of The Consumer Culture (Paperback)
If you've ever spent a considerable amount of time living in a 3rd World nation like I have, this book can help you understand why the USA has such an intense consumer culture which is almost unheard of in other such countries. I'm a big fan of capitalism, and this book makes a lot of sense. It's not a critique of capitalism nearly as much as an explanation of how it can shape cultures.
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5.0 out of 5 stars More on the General Topic of Cultural Manipulation, November 27, 2013
By 
Not Moses (Loma Linda, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Captains Of Consciousness Advertising And The Social Roots Of The Consumer Culture (Paperback)
The other reviewers have done a(n =unusually=) fine job of sampling the essence -- including the one who (rightfully) called Ewen a "Marxist" (well; read the review; it may surprise you).

I'm just going to suggest some other authors and their work for those who want to dig further into truly scholarly, well-grounded, research-based historical revisionism along similar lines. All of these books are usually available on amazon.com.

Robert Altemeyer: The Authoritarian Specter, Boston: Harvard University Press, 1996.

Robert Altemeyer: The Authoritarians, Charleston, SC: Lulu, 2006.

S. E. Asch: Effects of Group Pressure upon the Modification and Distortion of Judgments, New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1952.

Peter L. Berger & Thomas Luckman: The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge; New York: Doubleday, 1966.

Edward L. Bernays: Crystallizing Public Opinion; New York: Boni & Liveright, 1926.

Allan Bloom: The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students: New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987.

Martin Buber: Productivity and Existence, in Maurice Stein et al (editors): Identity and Anxiety: Survival of the Person in Mass Society; Glencoe, IL: The Free Press, 1960.

Robert Cialdini: Influence: Science and Practice, 4th Ed.; New York: Allyn and Bacon, 2000.

Adam Curtis: The Century of the Self; a BBC documentary broadcast in 2002 (based on Ewen's PR!: A Social History of Spin, see below).

Emile Durkheim: The Division of Labor in Society; orig. pub. 1883, London: The Free Press, 1933.

Jacques Ellul: Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes; orig. pub. 1965; New York: Vintage, 1973.

Stuart Ewen: All Consuming Images: The Politics of Style in Contemporary Culture; orig. pub. 1988, New York: Basic Books, 1990.

Stuart Ewen: PR!: A Social History of Spin; New York: Basic Books, 1996.

Neal Gabler: An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood; New York: Crown Books, 1988.

George W. F. Hegel: The Phenomenology of Spirit; orig. pub. 1806; tr. Miller, A. V., New York: Oxford U. Press, 1979.

Jules Henry: Culture Against Man; New York: Random House, 1963.

Jules Henry: On Sham, Vulnerability and other forms of Self-Destruction; London: Allan Lane Penguin Press, 1973.

Eric Hoffer: The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements; New York: Harper and Row, 1966.

Neil Howe & William Strauss: Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584 to 2069, New York: Quill Harper Collins, 1992.

Aldous Huxley: Science, Liberty and Peace: A thoughtful analysis of the individual today and his future in the world, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1946.

Immanuel Kant: A Critique of Pure Reason; orig. pub. 1781, London: Cambridge U. Press, 1999.

Jeffrey Klaehn, ed.: The Political Economy of Media and Power; New York: Peter Lang, 2010.

Joel Kramer & Diana Alstad: The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power; Berkeley, CA: Frog , Ltd., 1993.

Jiddu Krishnamurti: As One Is: To Free the Mind from All Conditioning; Prescott AZ: Hohm Press, 2007.

T. J. Jackson Lears: No Place of Grace: Antimodernism and the Transformation of American Culture, 1880-1920; Univ. of Chicago Press, 1994.

Jackson Lears: Rebirth of a Nation: The Making of Modern America, 1877-1920; New York: HarperCollins, 2009.

Walter Lippmann: Public Opinion; orig. pub. 1922, New York: Simon & Schuster / Free Press, 1997.

Karl Marx: Das Kapital (A Critique of Political Economy); orig. pub. 1867, New York: Penguin, 1992.

Stanley Milgram: Obedience to Authority, New York: Harper, 1974.

Arthur G. Miller: The Obedience Experiments, New York: Prager, 1984.

C. Wright Mills: The Power Elite; London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1956, 2000.

Stanley Milgram: Obedience to Authority, New York: Harper, 1974.

Arthur G. Miller: The Obedience Experiments, New York: Prager, 1984.

C. Wright Mills: The Power Elite; London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1956, 2000.

Stanley Milgram: Obedience to Authority, New York: Harper, 1974.

Arthur G. Miller: The Obedience Experiments, New York: Prager, 1984.

C. Wright Mills: The Power Elite; London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1956, 2000.

Vance Packard: The Hidden Persuaders; orig. pub. 1957; New York: Ig, 2007. (and pretty much every Packard published thereafter)

Neil Postman: Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business; New York: Penguin, 1985.

Al Ries & Jack Trout: Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, New York: McGraw-Hill, 2000.

Vincent Ruggiero: Beyond Feelings: A Guide to Critical Thinking, 5th Ed.; Mountain View, CA: Mayfield, 1998.

Bertrand Russell: The Impact of Science on Society, New York: Columbia U. Press, 1951.

Anne Wilson Schaef: When Society Becomes an Addict; New York: Harper & Row, 1987.

Margaret Thaler Singer, Harold Goldstein, Michael Langone, et al: Report of the APA Task Force on Deceptive and Indirect Techniques of Persuasion and Control; New York: American Psychological Association, 1986.

J. Michael Sproule: Propaganda and Democracy: The American Experience of Media and Mass Persuasion; London: Cambridge U. Press, 1997.

Maurice Stein et al (editors): Identity and Anxiety: Survival of the Person in Mass Society; Glencoe, IL: The Free Press, 1960.

Larry Tye: The Father of Spin: Edward L. Bernays and the Birth of Public Relations; New York: Henry Holt, 1998.

Thorstein Veblen: The Theory of the Leisure Class; orig. pub. 1899, New York: Penguin Classics, 1994.

Max Weber, Talcott Parsons (translator): The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism; Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1930.

Gary Woodward & Robert Denton: Persuasion & Influence in American Life, 4th Ed.; Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, 2000.
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5.0 out of 5 stars must read for thinkers, August 25, 2013
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Ever wonder how we got to be the way we are -- consumers not people. Focusing on the rise of advertising in the 1920's, Ewen does a comprehensive job on filling in the pieces. Later chapters on the fifties and beyond could carry more heft, but the core if the book is a delight.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Captains Of Consciousness, August 9, 2012
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Captains Of Consciousness is a must read text for all who want and need to know the powerfully influential and controlling power of mass marketing and mass media.
Read this book to know how and by who our opinions, thoughts, impulses, and feelings are influenced and shaped.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Power to Change Your Thinking, May 30, 2011
By 
J. Smallridge (Kansas City, MO USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Captains Of Consciousness Advertising And The Social Roots Of The Consumer Culture (Paperback)
This is one of the best non-fiction works I have ever read -- it explains advertising in such a simple way and shows that even in the early 20th Century things were not so different from today. It is a great piece of social commentary and living history.
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