Adcult USA: The Triumph of Advertising in American Culture

James B. Twitchell, Author Columbia University Press $85 (0p) ISBN 978-0-231-10324-4
Advertising, argues Twitchell (Carnival Culture), has become the lingua franca of American culture, supplying a common bond that links all Americans. However, he maintains, advertising does not shape our desires, but rather simply reflects our inherent materialism, a view he fails to convincingly support. Twitchell examines the history of magazines, radio and TV in light of the increasing power and prevalence of advertisements, claiming that it is naive not to expect advertisers to have a growing role in determining the content of the media they virtually subsidize. Twitchell only briefly discusses critics of advertising and mass culture, and while he takes issue with feminists' outrage at cosmetic advertising, he fails to substantially address the work of respected theorists of popular culture such as the Frankfurt School. In Twitchell's opinion, the role of advertising in our culture is comparable to that played by the church in Medieval Europe; and he also compares advertising's cultural centrality to that of art in the Italian Renaissance. While his portrayal of the power of advertising is persuasive, Twitchell fails in his self-consciously provocative attempt to claim that advertisements have a spiritual or aesthetic dimension remotely equivalent to that offered by religion or art. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/08/1996
Release date: 01/01/1996
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 296 pages - 978-0-231-10325-1
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