Promotional cultures

Book chapter


Graham, J. 2024. Promotional cultures. in: The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Visual Culture: Practices, Sites and Controversies Bloomsbury Academic.
Chapter titlePromotional cultures
AuthorsGraham, J.
Abstract

If, as Raymond Williams (1980) argued, culture is to be viewed as a 'whole way of life', then the term promotional culture has become a shorthand for conveying the extent to which the symbolic machinery of consumer capitalism has come to dominate our lives. To speak of promotional cultures, however, is to acknowledge that not all cultures have been impacted by or articulate the logic of promotion in the same ways.

This article begins with a comprehensive overview of how this concept emerged in the work of Andrew Wernick (1991) and other Marxist critical theorists in the 1980s and 90s. Key examples from advertising and popular culture are used to illustrate the semiological focus of this tradition. In Pop Art, for example, we witness not just the radical democratisation of art but also its radical marketisation, presaging the rise of neoliberalism and the cult of the self toward the end of the century.

The rise of digital networks and globalisation in the 2000s has seen the logic of promotion extend across cultures and societies. In the work of Davis (2013), Powell (2013), Edwards (2016) and Cronin (2018) we witness the seemingly unilinear role played by particular promotional industries and intermediaries in advancing this logic, while the more complex story of promotion within specific visual domains is told by the likes of Banet-Weiser (2012, 2018), Grainge and Johnson (2015), Sobande (2020), Poel et al. (2021). These and other studies reveal how promotional cultures are typically shot through with ambivalence: they afford agency, especially to people who would otherwise be socially marginalised, yet do so through processes of subjectification which all too often entrench material inequalities.

KeywordsPromotional culture; Andrew Wernick; branding; influencers; immaterial labour; platform capitalism
Sustainable Development Goals10 Reduced inequalities
Middlesex University ThemeCreativity, Culture & Enterprise
LanguageEnglish
Book titleThe Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Visual Culture: Practices, Sites and Controversies
PublisherBloomsbury Academic
Publication process dates
Accepted31 Jul 2023
Deposited03 Oct 2023
Output statusAccepted
Copyright Statement

This is the Accepted Manuscript of a book chapter to be published in Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Visual Culture. Publication of the pre-print manuscript embargoed until publication of the volume in 2025.

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