Week in review: Week 4-Month 4-2004

Monday opened with an essay that showed the discontinuities that exist between anthropology and economic, culture and commerce. These are sometimes as distant as a little girl growing up on the Canadian Prairies some 70 years ago and the real estate market of present day Manhattan.

Tuesday’s essay was about the same. Pip Coburn is a wonder of clarity, intelligence, and exposition that the social sciences cannot begin to match. So Will (Straw) and I are left to scratch out interesting questions but to do so in a self created void.

The social sciences and humanities have taken so little interest and exercise so little intelligence in the pursuit of the connection between culture and commerce, it might as well be a “Northwest passage”…except of course that most of the people teaching in the humanities and social sciences doubt that it exists—and will send no boats in search of it. Oh, for a small band and a sturdy ship like the Saint Roche.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were all about brands. This is the easiest place for social scientists when it comes to thinking about what commerce is and how it works. After all, brands are those magical devices that add value to the product and come mostly from, often, exquisite manipulations of contemporary culture, virtuoso expressive accomplishments, of marketers and marketing teams, creative directors and advertising agencies. Naturally, we know next to nothing about this activity because of the great clanging stupidities that are routinely turned out by Naomi Klein and company.

Where it not for these clanging stupidities, I believe that marketing and brand building would not remain a nascent art and, as we see in the case of Silicon Valley, an amateur entreprise. Ebay, Adobe, and Google are all making rookey errors. This despite the fact that markets is at least 100 years old. Some day, marketing will look like Pip’s world of the leading intelligence that directs capital markets.

But that little boat has a very long way to go.

This coming week I hope to finish up the manuscript for a book called Culture and Consumption II and send it off to Indiana University Press. It won’t help a lot but it may help a little. Two essays from this blog will appear there.