cover image Culture as a Weapon: The Art of Influence in Everyday Life

Culture as a Weapon: The Art of Influence in Everyday Life

Nato Thompson. Melville House, $26.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-61219-573-5

The latest from art critic Thompson (Seeing Power: Art and Activism in the 21st Century) chronicles the ever-increasing complexity and ubiquity of ads and artworks that manipulate people into purchasing an item or accepting an ideology. Beginning with an anecdote-heavy history of the golden age of advertising, Thompson reveals that companies increasingly stopped trying to market a product and turned toward marketing a social experience, a trend exemplified by Apple, Ikea, and Starbucks. Thompson compellingly suggests that selling a product and selling an ideology have historically applied disconcertingly similar tactics; indeed, the advertising firm behind the wildly successful Volkswagen Beetle ad campaign of the late 1950s later produced the famous “Daisy” campaign ad for Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Thompson’s approach emphatically hews to the left, recalling the politics of Howard Zinn and Naomi Klein, and he treats the term “culture” very broadly. The book is an energetic, briskly paced, and well-researched polemic that avoids cliché and succeeds in raising awareness of the cultural forces that shape brand preferences and political allegiance. [em](Jan.) [/em]