Cultural Studies Comparative And Historical Analysis Are Essay

Length: 6 pages Sources: 5 Subject: Business - Advertising Type: Essay Paper: #46243393 Related Topics: False Advertising, Self Reflection, World Cup, Comparison
Excerpt from Essay :

Cultural Studies

Comparative and historical analysis are concepts that describe analyzing events in their historical context, by comparing them with other events that have occurred in the past. Events that occur today do not occur in a vacuum, but rather they always have context. The first chapter mentions the confusion in Britain when it was revealed that a suicide bomb attack on that country was carried out by Anglo-Jamaicans. The context made little sense, as this social group was not known for anything close to terrorism. The attackers, however, had converted to radical Islam, unusual perhaps for that group, but nevertheless this conversion shifted the context of those attacks entirely. Historically, and comparatively, the attacks made a lot more sense as radical Muslims use the suicide bomb style of attack and tend to be more prone towards terrorist attacks in general.

Envy, desire and belonging are powerful emotions, and these are frequently used in advertising. This works in two parts. The first part is that the advertiser creates these emotions, and the second part is that the advertiser promotes their product as the solution to the problem. Lifestyle advertising is one way that this is accomplished, where a product is promoted as being part of a lifestyle, one that is usually impossible to achieve. The idea is that if you buy this product, you are demonstrating your aspiration to that lifestyle, and this can play not only on envy, but also create a sense of belonging to a larger group, a cooler group, or at least a group with common product purchases. Advertisers want to create desire, so they play on your existing desires in order to sell you products that the promote as easing your desires.

Branding, identity and the commodity self all play into this as well. A brand is more than just a logo and a name; it is a set of ideas that go along with that name and logo. Thus, the brand represents more than just a product; it has an identity. The brand identity is part of what is being sold to consumers. A consumer wants to define himself or herself in terms of a set of attributes, and uses brands to display those attributes to the self and to others. Advertisers work hard to create these brand associations with attributes that are desirable to consumers, so that consumers will seek out products with that brand as a means to express themselves. This is what is known as the commodity self, where one's sense of sense is defined in terms of what they purchase.

Use value and exchange value are related economic concepts. Every good has two values. Use value is what the good can be used for, and exchange value is what the good can be exchanged for. What these values are relative to one another are important in purchasing decisions for consumers. If you want something perishable -- a cup of coffee, for example -- you have a price that you are willing to pay for that commodity. That is the use value. Exchange value reflects the point at which you'd rather have the money. The easiest example of this is a car, because there are many secondary markets for cars. You have a car that you only use for vacations, because you can walk to work. At some point, that car is worth more to you if you converted it to cash (exchange value) than if you used it for vacations (use value). At that point, you would probably sell your car. But if you need that car to get to work, the use value will be higher than the exchange value, and you will keep it. The principle applies to other goods as well, as we all weigh for each good if it has more value as cash or if it has more value as a good (should we buy it or not).

Part II. Sternburgh's main argument was that economic transactions should be just that, and not expressions of emotions. He uses guilty pleasure as his foil, because of the overt nature of guilt as


Guilty pleasures are things that we purchase and enjoy over which we feel some measure of guilt. Some guilt is warranted -- like when we purchase a product we know to be unethical or destructive -- but in many cases we feel guilt over purchasing products seemingly for no reason. He notes that guilty pleasures are a reflection of a mixture of "self-consciousness and self-reflection." The former concept reflects the guilt. You have satisfaction over purchasing a product, because you have determined that its use value is superior to its price. You buy it because it makes sense to you, economically, at the time.

What I like about this argument is that it reflects a call to take negative emotions out of purchasing and consumption. Rojak notes that popular culture is designed in part to drive consumption, and the text argues that advertisements make frequent and liberal use of emotional manipulation. Purchases driven by advertising are, in many cases, driven by such manipulation to feel bad about ourselves in some way, and use the product as a solution. The guilty pleasures is sort of a reverse embodiment of this. The purchaser feels bad after the purchase, not before. Marketers can play on this, by treating their products as indulgences. We are told our whole lives that we have few indulgences (hardly truthful) and that we deserve them. The result, of course, is that we are constantly indulging.

And therein lies a weakness in Sternburgh's argument, I feel. The guilty pleasure is something we are allowing our own emotions to drive that sense of guilt. He is right that we should take ownership over our own emotional state with respect to purchasing, but we feel this guilt when our compulsion to purchase outweighs our rational self. The rational self knows that we cannot afford those shoes, but we buy them anyway, and feel guilt later. The rational self knows that we are already overweight, and that this is bad for our health outcomes, but we buy that doughnut anyway, because we like doughnuts. And then we feel bad about it. We feel bad, in a sense, that we have been conned into doing something against our self-interest. So a guilty pleasure is an emotional reaction against the way that we have been conditioned by advertising. Nobody needs to eat a doughnut three times a week, and nobody needs forty-three pairs of shoes. The feeling of guilt is natural -- it is our sensible self trying to express itself in the face of compulsive buying behavior.

The problem lies in that so much of our consumption is conditioned, and thus reflexive, rather than rational. Our culture has been driven by advertising to a degree that we scarcely understand. Williams notes that the milieu in which we set ourselves defines a large part of our culture, in addition to the base culture into which we are born. From the outset, then, our consumption patterns determine who we are, or at least how we are perceived by others. Often, how we perceive ourselves plays into this as well. We need commodities in order to define ourselves, and there are times when the rational mind understands the inherent problems with this, and that expresses itself as guilt. So in that sense, I disagree with Sternburgh that guilt should be removed from purchasing -- to me that is more suppression of rationality than expressing our true selves. Guilt sucks, but it is there for a reason.

Hall discusses the term popular in relation to our use of commodities. We define ourselves in part by our purchases. It is easy for Sternburgh to argue that someone enjoying Miley Cyrus brings about guilt when that does not fit with the image of themselves that they are otherwise trying to project to the world. That's a fair point, but misses the bigger point. Hall notes that we seek a degree of popularity, and our purchasing patterns will end up being based on our cohort and where we live as much as anything else. We do this to fit in with the society around us; individual expression is sometimes false, for example among students who might have expressive fashion but only do so in order to fit in with other students. We ascribed objects, according to Hall, with a whole set of attributes, including where those objects will place us within society. The same can be said of brands, as the textbook notes.

There is also the issue that cultures differ. There is some common understanding among the authors that culture is something you can express through your purchases, it should be remembered that there is no one set definition of culture. Rojak sees consumption as a means of expressing culture, as culture is a blend of where we have come from, and where we wish to…

Sources Used in Documents:


Hall, S. (1998). Notes on deconstructing the popular. Pearson/Prentice Hall.

Rojek, C. (no date). Cultural studies. Policy Short Introduction Series.

Sternburgh, A. (2014) All of the pleasure. None of the guilt. New York Times Magazine Retrieved March 5, 2015 from

Williams, R. (no date). Culture is ordinary.

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