The Rational Consumer: Bad for Business and Politics
162 Pages
English
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The Rational Consumer: Bad for Business and Politics

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Gain access to the library to view online
Learn more
162 Pages
English

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This book discusses the seminal role played by Edward Bernays, a nephew of Sigmund Freud, in the founding of American-style public relations – persuasive communication through manipulation of symbols – and his huge (and cynical) impact on the American economic and political scene. It provides a substantiated and convincing explanation for what is happening today in Donald Trump’s America. In the form of a history of ideas, the book makes clear that the present Trumpian manipulation of democracy and what it means to be American has a long pre-history and continues to go through different phases, involving the cultivation and institutionalisation of strong bonds between business and politics.
The book shows how this is intimately linked with a science, intellectualism and practice informed by a series of binary oppositions in human action and interaction (e.g. rationality and irrationality, reason and emotion, mind and body, brain and heart, insider and outsider, us and them) and how unpredictable human nature really is. It makes a convincing argument that being human depends on how successfully we are able to negotiate such apparently contradictory binaries with the intricacies and dynamism of human agency. It is rich and thought provoking and very timely, given the exclusionary politics of fear, anger, hate and nativism we see unfolding not only in the USA but all over the world.

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Published 07 August 2018
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EAN13 9789956550623
Language English
Document size 2 MB

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to study other societies. We often find their democracies and their modernization wanting, short of some standard inspired by an idealized version of ourselves and of where we stand. In this compelling book, Francis Nyamnjoh turns the mirror back on us. It is an unsettling experience, but one that has the potential to enlighten.”
“Francis Nyamnjoh tackles with remarkable boldness the debate over the rational choice theory and its opposite, the Bernays pseudo-Freudian propaganda based on individual unconscious irrational drives, and connects it with the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook debates. His rather optimistic conclusion concerning Trump is encouraging.” The Pot-King. The Body and Technologies of Power
“It is enjoyable to read a creative and thorough account of the North American flavored gaslighting that I find myself living in. Nyamnjoh gives not only an introduction to Freudian inspired propaganda, but illustrates a romantic comedy: the meeting of two lovers made for each other – The USA and capitalism. He approaches the subject with wit and a wink. His writing expands outside and in between the pendulum swings, muddying the water of dichotomies to include us all in the conversation.”
it means to be American has a long pre-history and continues to go through different
The Rational Consumer: Bad for Business and Politics
The Rational Consumer: Bad for Business and Politics Democracy at the Crossroads of Nature and Culture
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. Democracy at the Crossroads of Nature and Culture
Francis B. Nyamnjoh
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The Rational Consumer: Bad for Business and Politics Democracy at the Crossroads of Nature and Culture Francis B. Nyamnjoh
L a ng a a R esea rch & P u blishing CIG Mankon, Bamenda
Publisher:LangaaRPCIG Langaa Research & Publishing Common Initiative Group P.O. Box 902 Mankon Bamenda North West Region Cameroon Langaagrp@gmail.comwww.langaa-rpcig.net Distributed in and outside N. America by African Books Collective orders@africanbookscollective.com www.africanbookcollective.com
ISBN-10: 9956-550-14-0
ISBN-13: 978-9956-550-14-2 ©Francis B. Nyamnjoh 2018
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, mechanical or electronic, including photocopying and recording, or be stored in any information storage or retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher
Table of Contents Foreword...................................................................... v Pierre Englebert 1. Introduction ............................................................. 1 2. Captured by Subterranean Forces ........................... 7 3. Freud Adopted and Adapted for Consumerism by Edward Bernays .............................. 19 4. The Rational Consumer: Bad for Business and Politics...................................... 35 5. Freedom at Last or Wolves of Repression in Sheepskin? ............................................ 65 6. Conclusion: Beyond Impoverishing Dichotomies ................................................................ 87 Endnotes...................................................................... 95 References ................................................................... 125 Afterword ..................................................................... 135 Jean-Pierre WarnierIndex ............................................................................ 145
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Foreword Pierre Englebert It is a credit to Francis Nyamnjoh’s open-mindedness and tolerance (or is it his recklessness?) that he asked me to write a foreword toThe Rational Consumer: Bad for Business and Politics – Democracy at the Crossroads of Nature and Culture, his latest volume in an already long and rich publication list. The request left me much flattered but also puzzled and – paradoxically for a book largely on reason – questioning his own rationality. Truth be told, I am an ignoramus next to him and largely incompetent in the matters the book addresses. I cannot comment on the Freudian and post-Freudian psychology that sits at the core of the argument with even an ounce of proficiency, nor do I know much about public relations theory. And while I live in the middle of the American mayhem he discusses, I do not study it and have little insightful to say about it, save for sharing the grief I experience like many of us. And yet, I feel I can maybe contribute something the reader might find useful, for Francis’s book left me inspired, provoked in the best sense of the word and full of reactions, like an eager student in a first-year seminar. Yes, whatever context or discipline one comes from, there is much to learn from this book, which is erudite but in no way inaccessible. Its beautiful prose – as always with Francis – is hospitable to the reader. Even if post-Freudian psychology is not your cup of tea, you will not regret going along for the ride because democracy, liberalism and what makes our humanity (individually and socially) are the real topics of this book, and they certainly are everyone’s concerns. Subjectively, a few points among many struck me and might whet others’ appetites for reading. The first is the
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question that buttresses the book: What is the individual freedom to vote if it is based on emotional manipulation? How free are we? One cannot but be left very uncomfortable and forced to introspection at Francis’s words: “democracy becomes exaggeratedly little more than suspending rationality and relentlessly pandering to the hidden, complex, layered and ever-multiplying desires of the elusive individual who seeks freedoms without many responsibilities in return” (p.78). Second is Francis’s pointed questioning of the origin of the belief that democracy is only compatible with capitalism. For sure, there are strong philosophical foundations to this claim that predate Freud and the empirical evidence – notwithstanding measurement problems that might be self-fulfilling – of the relationship between the two, over time and space, appear robust. Yet, Francis suggests that it is also the result of purposeful and methodical manipulation based on the insights of Freudian analysis, a sort of Gramscian hegemonic thinking that leaves us largely unable to look more critically into it. As someone who studied Economics in American academia, I can confirm that a discipline that vaunts its own rationality and empiricism largely takes its own assumptions as articles of faith. The reader who, like me, tends to think of herself as somewhat rational cannot help but feel provoked. Going even further, Francis asks to what extent rational liberal individualism, a system so many of us still cherish, might actually be the genetic ancestor of the untruth system that has dominated American politics these last few years. Francis Nyamnjoh has a gift for the salutary intellectual provocation. His recent text onRhodes Must Fall, in which he challenged South African xenophobia for its Rhodesian reproduction, was a powerful case in point. His notion that Rhodes did not fall but was merely taking a stroll around the neighbourhood brought up Francis’s formidable sense of humour, his analytical perceptiveness and a call for humility in
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the face of our certainties. In a different context,The Rational Consumerfurthers this intellectual agenda. In the United States of America, we are fond of using social sciences, our material development and our rationality, as foundations to study other societies. We often find their democracies and their modernisation wanting, short of some standard inspired by an idealised version of ourselves and of where we stand. In this compelling book, Francis Nyamnjoh turns the mirror back on us. It is an unsettling experience, but one that has the potential to enlighten. Claremont, California 2 July 2018
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