ROBIN LYDENBERG THE RHETORIC OF ADVERTISING In his short but often astonishing study, Captains of Consciousness, published in 1976, Stuart Ewen offers a Marxist analysis of the development of advertising during the first quarter of this century. He allows the early industrialists and advertisers to speak for themselves, and they speak with a startling and almost ingenuous frankness about their construction of a network of popular propaganda. Captains of Consciousness reveals the political causality behind the "naturalness" of mass culture and ferrets out of their comfortable and powerful anonymity the engineers of the psychology of advertising. By comparing Ewen's primarily historical analysis of the origins and effects of advertising with two studies which focus on the literary nature of commercial art-Leo Spitzer's "American Advertising Explained as Popular Art" in Essays on English and American Literature (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1962) and Roland Barthes' Mythologies (New York: Hill and Wang, 1972)-I hope to elucidate some of the methodological problems facing the critic of mass culture. The duality inherent in the cultural products of mass reproduction necessitates a critical approach which can encompass socio-economic as well as aesthetic considerations. While the subtlety with which Spitzer and Barthes dissect the rhetoric of modern mythmaking lays bare the literary manipulations commonly practiced by the advertising industry, the historical evidence in Ewen's study provides a helpful check against the literary critics' tendency to transform social and economic manipulation into a disinterested and even revelatory aesthetics. In the title of his book Ewen refers to the transformation of businessmen during the early decades of this century from "captains of industry" who presented the fruits of mass produc 65 0
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