Thursday, November 29, 2012

Advertising: The Replacement for Religion

      I found the arguments Jhally asserts in his chapter entitled, Advertising as Religion: The Dialectic of Technology and Magic, to be not only informative and convincing but also thought provoking. He addresses the history of not only advertising, but also of human beings in general. The historical information presented is vital for understanding how various meanings have been given to products in present day (and since the beginning of our capitalist industrial society). Jhally claims that in traditional societies [that did not have market economies] people had a direct connection to the production process of the goods that were part of their lives. Goods were the communicators of social relations, and when making a good that person was putting a part of themselves into it. However, with capatilsm came the establishment of markets. Markets eliminated the opportunity for people to see where (or who) the goods they were purchasing came from, and thus the goods lost their meaning. The shift to capitalism was also a period of emotional transition and unrest. Whereas previously people had a experienced strong religious influences and a sense of stability and community in their simple agricultural lives; urbanization led to secularization and many changes in lifestyle. It was at this time that advertisers saw their opportunity.

      Since people needed meanings for goods, and products had lost their meaning when they went to the marketplace, advertising played a role of injecting new social meanings into them. Although religion was weakening, people still yearned for the things it had long provided them with. Advertisers strategically looked to the transcendental realm as a model. Their goal was to give the public something new to enhance their lives. Since then, advertising has evolved to keep up with the times, but despite is varying approaches, people continue to look to it for guidance. Although advertising has no moral core or central system of beliefs, the industry acts to tell people not only what they should buy- but also what they should or should not do, how to do these things and creates consumption communities (much like religious communities).


  1. Jillian, apologies for the slow response, but I do like the way that you have played out the analogy between advertising and religion. You've drawn out the apparent similarities in terms of community and object worship, though I would say that advertising does promulgate its own form of "values" or belief systems. Or rather, advertising finds it convenient to borrow many of the values and beliefs of other groups, or to substitute worldly, material goals in the place of moral or ethical ones.

  2. Jillian, great response. I agree that people need meanings for goods and products, and that religion was approached in way that not only applied the theologic perspective but from a perspective of upward mobility in the since that, Religion was being looked at as something that became a means to an end for a group of people. It is interesting to perceive religion in this way from, taking a step back from the way I usually perceive religion, its meaning, its effect on daily life.