The Journal of Aesthetics and Protest

Think Different: Lessons for the Left from Madison Avenue

This article by our friend Stephen Duncombe was printed in the Journal of Aesthetics and Protest.

The Power of Desire

Progressives can learn a valuable lesson from advertising: desire can be power. Advertising circumvents reason, working with the personal, the magical and associative.  A journey of universal emotions rather than an argument of fact, it’s appeal is not cognitive, but primal. Advertising is visceral.This emotionality, perhaps all emotionality, disturbs progressives. As heirs to the Enlightenment, progressives have learned to privilege reason. Feelings motivate the others: those bible thumpers, consumers, reactionaries, terrorists, the mob. All true, but emotions also motivate progressive politics. The problem is not desire, but where desire has been channeled. The solution is not to abandon emotion with appeals to “reason” or “logic” or “fact,” but to rearticulate desire as desire for freedom and justice, desire for a better world, an ardent desire to kick some conservative ass.