In his essay “Advertising at the End of the Economy” he compares our consumer culture, fueled by the US’s 175 Billion dollar advertising industry, with drug pushers and believes it is responsible for instilling in our culture the universal belief that our happiness is at the end of the retail checkout counter.
Our current version of capitalism needs the sale of commodities to survive and commodities need the advertising industry to instill a desire in the consumer. If middle class people of the world ever collectively felt they had everything they wanted to stage a happy family life, the world’s economy would collapse. Contentedness kills the system.
Jhally believes that within every message in the system of market communication is the narration that “The way to happiness and satisfaction is through the consumption of objects through the marketplace.”
The success of the advertising industry is a subversive one. We are prone from an early age to believe “money can’t buy happiness.” Very few would openly admit to believing that more things will make them happy, yet most live out lives inconsistent with that belief. New wardrobes are purchased with the change of the season, not because last season’s clothes will not due, but because the clothing industry has changed their designs, and the advertising industry tells a narrative that acceptance by others depends upon keeping up with these transient trends.
The choice to be fiercely individual in a mass culture that studies way to manipulate conforming consumers is not any easy one. The cards are stacked against such souls emerging and finding away out of the labyrinth of chemically addictive fast food, peer pressured dress codes, false dichotomies, and scale of global problem that can make an individual feel powerless to make a tangible difference.