2/7: Making Advertising Less Magic, Everybody Loves Raymond Williams

As if I even need to reiterate it at this point, I will be using this post to break down an already simplified version of a classic text: "Advertising: The Magic System" from Raymond Williams' Problems and Materialism and Culture. In fact, this text is actually much shorter than its peers in my blog (weighing in at roughly 5.5 pages,) so I'll be a bit brief. There are three major topics covered by Williams, the first being the basis of advertising. A deep knowledge of Marx is all over this, with the words "Capitalism" and "Use" being flipped out like hotcakes (704-705). However, midway through the second page he crescendos into the word "magic" in a way only Williams can, midway through a paragraph and in light italics (705). Williams grounds this system of advertising in the occult and the real, calling it "similar to magical systems in simpler societies, but rather strangely coexistent with a highly developed scientific technology" (705). Maybe its just me, but this is Williams at his finest, writing on the unknown.

After a brief section on consumerism (which our author notes is a "metaphor drawn from the stomach or the furnace,") Williams returns to the concept of magic as "the jejune bravado of deeply confused men" (706, 709). This is the most relevant claim to me, probably because I pretend to be a cynically wise young man when in reality I am a notoriously selfish and confused boy. Advertising is magic not because it is cast by sorcerers, but because it is a curse unleashed by those who willingly appear Faustian while remaining empty as us inside. Advertising is fake, "a true part of the culture of a confused society" (709).