Part 1 of this weblog previously described how increasingly vocalised and so visible social trends have become almost enigmatically integrated with the process of consumerism. This from everyday items such as a daily branded coffee through to aspects of conspicuous consumption, with the examples of 1980s Benetton adverts, 1990s 'Fur is Murder' T-shirts, 2000s Starbucks Coffee and 2010s idiom of 'Fair Trade' supermarket goods. Others have obviously since followed.
It was also explained that since such post-modern “philosophical determinates” have become increasingly engrained in FMCG and broader retail consumer culture, so likewise – although more remote in terms of product proposition and brand identity - the auto-sector would be wise to better appreciate the increasingly philosophical nature of purchase and usage: beyond the obvious mass-consciousness focus on reduced ecological damage and greater use of recycled and recyclable components, and the immediate business-bound limitations of traditional marketing research (products, brand and users).
Instead, to solidify (as practicable) the often very nebulous 'skunk-work' efforts which take place in a very ad hoc manner by questioning minds within design and marketing departments.
To this end, whether undertaken in an official capacity as part of an ongoing or periodic 'scenario planning' process, or more narrowly but deeply by internal 'forecaster' (as per the likes of BT), it would serve auto-makers to grow their field of understanding and vision, and not fall into the immediate trap of believing that uni-directional 'eco-planning' of products and processes, and associated 'eco-branding' regards mass market advertising, is enough.
To do so means an effort to listen and see as to what has gone, and what is going on, beyond the “goldfish bowl” of the sector and its immediate corporate and sector issues and the increasingly temporary created reality of heavily media propelled contemporary consumer culture.
[NB the very recent scandal around VW Group's emissions test 'defeat device', within the ECU software design of over 11,000,000 vehicles, with the possibility of other car-makers using similar tactics, will presently obviously absorb executives and senior management, Yet additional focus on such less immediately tangible social trends when feasible could rebalance any overt customer focus on ecological issues. Essentially, whilst eco remains vitally important, perhaps “a greater number of eggs in greater number of (consumer) baskets”.]
The obvious goal is to see the bigger societal picture, even as it increasingly fragments with new and evolved old social tribes associated belief systems and behaviour patterns.
There was mention of the likes of Slavoj Zizek, and the need for corporations to appreciate his mode of inter-connected societal thinking, even if as capitalistic entities, hardly endeared to his neo-Marxist self-description. The fact is that the social sciences in academic circles have been massively influential to the media since the 1920s and more so since likes of 1960s Satre and 1980s Baudrillard.
The subject 'Critical Theory' then has invariably affected the more recent development of western nations during their information-led development. Hence, more than a cursory interest by the largest companies (auto-makers obviously amongst them) is increasingly necessary so as to understand what broad context is driving the short, medium and long term futures.
To this end the remainder of the poignant topics encompassed by 'Critical Theory's' listed in an uncurated A-Z manner follows:
'Longue Durée' – the French expression for (obviously) 'long duration', proferred by the 'Annalis' school of the mid C20th, and focuses upon the slow processes of historical change that are almost imperceptible to individuals living through time periods. Relative to economic theory it relates to the availability and pricing of commodities, shifts in demographics and trade cycles and latterly that of climate change (pros and cons). Central is the 'seriality' of measured and quantified trends. The history of 'mentalities' also places emphasis on the underlying structural dimensions, such an the type of epoch / era (eg Feudalism vs Industrialisation vs Information-Age).
[NB Intentionally overtly long in scale and specific in targeted measurement, 'longue duree' appears too immense and far to a generalised theorem to be of use to the corporate world. Yet understanding contexts, especially radically shifted economic times, as seen historically and seen since 2008, does indeed provide backdrop understanding. Albeit with the understanding that since the C19th massive expansion of money markets, the discontinuation of the gold standard, “manufactured money” and “quick fire base rate” policy responses – ie the mechanics of the economy - have (as seen) dramatically altered what were once very drawn-out recessions. Consumer culture created by industrialisation effectively demanded a new rapid response economic model. Yet still the past offers a partially applicable guide].
'MacKinnon-Dworkin Model Law' – A legislative model for the suppression of pornography, drafted in 1983, stating that pornography is a practice of sex discrimination, given the graphic and sexually explicit subordination of women through use of pictures or words. Relates primarily to trafficking, coercion and force upon the individual. “Pornography does not depict sexual degradation, it is sexual degradation”. Opposed by libertarians and specific anti-censorship groups (inc. feminist groups) it was refuted by the American Supreme Court in 1984, it was partially incorporated by Canada in 1992.
[NB Whereas once pornography was typically magazine publishing based, and then video-based, today's proliferation of internet based porn, often from amateur or seemingly amateur sources, has massively altered the social context since MacKinnon-Dworkin was debated. Whereas unquestionably the yesteryear industry located in specific locales and certain groups did traffic, coerce and force, today's contextual sphere is that of a socially absorbed and much 'normalised' pornography unfortunately accessible by all. The intentional early days creation of amateur porn coincided with the increased affordability of new video technologies, so prompting an explosion in real and fake amateur porn. This has snowballed, and with it what appears an obvious increase in sexual degradation, coercion and force to satiate very much increased and quickly bored viewership. Simultaneously seeing national and global expansion of willing and unwilling participants of all legal ages, with the arena of fetishistic porn now very much expanded to fill created niches, including the (once deemed freakishness) of dual-gender participants within the 'transhumanism' movement). Seemingly lost in time, today more that ever then the 'MacKinnon-Dworkin' should be reviewed, and such efforts could be possibly incorporated into new 'responsible porn' campaigns by avante garde companies in an attempt to have the mass populace think about its direct personal effects and overall societal effect...amounting to “radical conservatism”].
Marxism – A body of thought created by Marx and Engels describing an alternative ideology to capitalism, it became a powerful force across the USSR, China, Eastern Bloc, Cuba and Latin America from the early C20th through to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, when regarded as an increasingly failed system relative to the national development progress of capitalist countries. However, that ideal of mass equality still resonates with many, especially in times of economic malaise and very real hardship, and through the populist propaganda of idealism, the struggle for which is personified in a hyper-real manner by historic revolutionary heroes. To summarise, Marx believed that the 'surplus value' inherent in a product or service, recognised as profitability arose from an inherently unscrupulous process whereby a “fair day's wage for a fair day's work” is meaningless since wages are always paid on an unfair basis. Ultimately, the system cannot be reformed and so must be over-thrown given capitalism's negative (zero-sum) outcomes between the bourgeoisie and proletariat. At the same time it destroys human relations given the reality of naked self-interest. In stark contrast, Communism's manifesto aim was to “establish an association of citizens in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.
[NB The idealism of Communism has indeed seen varying levels of systematic success given its previous wide adoption. However, the fact is that in reality Communist idealism when put into practice has been plagued by corruption and abuse at many levels, from tyrannical leader to policeman to school-teacher to factory head to distributor to black marketeer. Whereas the 'naturally' balancing supply and demand function of capitalism (largely) precludes such levels of corruption (and especially engrained and normalised corruption). This so given the workings of the value chain pricing model – typically from heavily centralised primary sources gaining economies to scale to the infusion of phased added value to very decentralised end sales points. The restructuring of industries, as required after big economic recessions, undertaken to re-generate profitability. Moreover, the prime argument against strict Communism is that it inevitably deters progress, given that personal achievement is unrewarded (especially relative to social or economic impact, and that lacklustre contribution – below the ideological average - is relatively over-rewarded. This is why the USSR and others in reality did grade and reward its theoretically equal workers separately].
'Masquerade' – the notion that femininity is a masquerade, or matter of acting out a role (Riviere 1929) which fits the historical masculine ideal. However it was noted (in mid C20th) that even those women in positions of authority (conventionally 'masculine') habitually sought approval from father figures by adopting exaggeratedly feminine or even flirtatious behaviour. This hypothesises as a reaction to ward off possible male aggression. Little description of the characteristics of a 'real woman' vs 'masquerade woman'. First airing of the idea that gender is a social construct, less a matter of biology, more “a matter of performance”.
[NB the hypothesis “to ward off possible male aggression” helps to underpin the early tenets of Feminism, which increasingly even then in a far more structured society of deference, and certainly today appears hollow. The idea of 'gender as construct' was literally played-out to create new social ambiguities by various Berlin popular theatres and film during the Weimar Republic (ie populist Marlene Dietrich dressing sexily in man's dinner suit attire). As similarly with London's Bloomsbury Set, 'gender construct' central to the “progressive” freedoms sought by upper middle-class homosexuals and via role-play transvestitism in 'bright young thing' parties held by the overtly liberal-left intelligentsia. However, the terrible German privation which emanated from the 1929 Wall St crash - itself viewed by the common person as intentionally created by a small sect within the elite – began to perceive such libertine gatherings as morally debasing. This then has much relevance to today, as the sexual margins of not so long ago are increasingly broadcast as 'new mainstream'. For those who are typically older, responsible and aware, and typically conservative ex-immigrant people (who are now well settled and rightly able to voice their opinion), now may be the tipping-point for what thus far has been a very repressed anti-feeling in an overt PC atmosphere. Moreover the blurring of sexual identities - most powerfully through psycho-sexual association in pornography and sexually orientated forums – appears to be a driving force in seeking to possibly create new social constructs of weak vs strong tribal identities, (eg the trend for cuckolding hitherto masculine men, unfortunately deploying racial stereotyping to do so, so as to erode white male self esteem, and the “feminazification” of younger women. Gender and pyscho-sexual issues seemingly unfortunately dividing western societies, where more than ever cohesion is required].
'Modernism' – used to describe a variety of tendencies within European (ie Anglo-American) literature and art in the early C20th. Virginia Woolf (one of the Bloomsbury Set) proclaimed “in or about December 1910 the human character changed”, though more commonly 1922 is seen as the watershed year given the publication of radical literature. Seeking to break historical 'grande narratives' (Church, Monarchy etc), it was often seen (for very good reason) as a Bolshevik threat. Modernism sought opposing doctrines, from 'stream of consciousness' novels (eg Ulysses) to the creation of stark architecture, through use of scientific principles whereby 'form follows function'. As with the earlier formation of 'futurism', its raison d'etre was a subtle revolution to create anew, by sweeping away traditional social constructs upon which incumbent power-bases had deployed and relied. Part of Modernism's mantra was that socio-technical change was so rapid that change as itself becomes a form of changelessness, (so apparently providing opportunity for speedy, aligned changes in the power structure, eg the Modernist propaganda rise of Communism of the period).
'Narcissism' – the love of one's own image. Used in the early pyscho-analysis as the object-choice of older homosexuals who idolised young men who resemble them. Thereafter adapted as an believed process by which the libido is withdrawn from the outside world and directed toward the ego. Freud accorded that narcissists display something of the very young child's self-contentment and inaccessibility. The term also used regards the manner in which the achieved or unachieved fantasy aspirations of parents are projected onto their children's future lives.
[NB the 'psycho-babble' uses of the word are highly debatable. It appears that Freud chose to intentionally utilise this word – already well absorbed the Victorian era's love of classicism – as a powerful popular enabler for later supposed 'diagnosis'. The fact is the natural outward facing libido becomes very much diminished if any adult (young to old) has had a truly abysmal, life shattering, experience. The longer the bad experience, the more withdrawn s/he becomes. Given the natural power of the libido it is one of the last psycho-physical attributes to fade, and is arguably not turned inward to serve the ego, as stated. The supposed 'narcissistic inaccessibility' is very obviously a defence mechanism against the worst aspects of various people or broad society. This seen in the previous Part 1 weblog with the real-world reaction of real rape victims. As regards the use of the term today, its utilisation has become almost everyday given the effects of the camera-phone and almost limitless storage memory for hundreds (if not thousands) of 'selfies'. The cyber-enabled 'mirror' camera-phone, together with 24/7 celebrity imagery, social media image portrayal and critically much reduced general responsibilities of the individual, has obviously generated a broad culture of narcissism, especially so amongst those in their youthful prime. Whilst it is excusable for the youth in their prime, it has slowly crept across nearly all ages groups, propelled by the “ten years younger” culture].
'Newspeak' (News-Speak) – an Orwellian term used in the book '1984' and used as common currency since to disparagingly describe a form of either simplified or oxymoronic communication, typically for propaganda purposes. '1984' offers various slogans, the best known being 'war is peace'
[NB It has been noticed that there are more and more subtle instances where the once clear-cut media messages of the past (esp 1900s to 1970s) have become either increasingly blurred with use of 'muddy' words / phrases, or the original message of some current affairs articles is effectively switched (usually in geo-political reporting), or quite obviously where an article is deployed about one subject yet designed to enhance a recently engrained perception on an altogether different subject. The use of closely coupled or associative wording the methodology. So not quite at the point where some editors have become history re-writing Winston Smiths, but seemingly not too removed either. Part of the loss of previously entrenched 'grande narritives', supported by military might)].
'Organic Intellectual' – a term created by Gramsci (1971) which recognises that whilst all (wo)men are intellectuals - given that all human activity involves at least some creative and intellectual activity – not all (wo)men have the social function of intellectuals. Thus an error to concentrate on the intrinsic nature or intellectual activity rather than the system of relations that permit intellectual activity. Thus, 'intellectuals' described as 'traditional' (acting as subalterns of the incumbent system) vs 'organic' (those rising classes or groups which innovate to establish a new hegemony). Every fundamental social group has its stratum of 'organic intellectuals', and the role of the state or party is to weld both old and new varieties together so as to form an hegonemic bloc. Gramsci understood the power of science and technology in an increasingly complex society, itself creating new 'organic intellectuals'; foreshadowing the role of knowledge industries by the late C20th, at period since the production and administration of knowledge became as at least important, if not more important, as physical production.
[NB whilst Gramsci's observation was hardly newly enlightening, given that the process had been in place for nearly 200 years, it was a truism worth repeating given the watershed point of the early 1970s, demonstrated by digital calculators and watches; computerisation had moved well beyond the confines of the lab. Critically, though the 'traditional' vs new 'organic' mentalities were seen in the split between entrenched global and newly re-emerging corporations. Whilst the US, UK, and most of the European car-makers having successfully ridden the C20th wave, retained their old strictly hierarchical structures (with their intrinsic foibles) those countries which had to start afresh after WW2 and very importantly with an alternative, more cohesive, social mindset, recognised the importance of utilising people's intellectual capabilities below senior management, and in doing so were able to improve production and procurement efficiencies aswell as simultaneously raising quality standards. More than enough has been written about Toyota's influence, with its improved systems adopted by other Japanese, British, Americans and Koreans, but far less recognition is given to the prowess in 'professional welding' of internal capabilities in the German car industry. Both societies (arguably still somewhat feudal under the surface) have been able to exercise far more intellectualism from their corporate workers, possibly because of innate ownership structures].
'Pan-Opticanism' – 'pan' and 'optic' (all-seeing) and coined by Foucault (1975) describes a form of authoritarian power which relies not upon overt repression but upon constant surveillance of a population and 'discipline' or the regimentation of the body. Initially used by the Victorians in the 'hub and spoke' layouts of prisons, today a prime aspect of advanced and emerging nations. The individual (prisoner) never knows if he is being watched or not, and so is trapped by his visibility and 'silent discipline'.
[NB this has obviously come to pass with the installation in public spaces of cameras, in city centtes ad trouble-spot neighbourhoods, and on roadways (speed camera and general observation camera) as both an instruments of safety, fee income and infrastructure efficiency. However, now beyond the physical realm, the cyber realm has become even more remotely observed as an individual's cyber interaction and so mental space, may be remotely observed by state or corporations, given ever greater privatisation of state functions].
'Post-Colonial Theory' – a development of literary studies from 'commonwealth literature' and what was previously termed '3rd world studies' to analyse the global effects of European colonisation. Books such as 'Orientalism' (Said 1988) and 'The Empire Writes Back' (Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin 1989).
[NB a subject which may be described as increasingly defunct as those large and small EM countries increasingly create ever more expanding national cultures, the content of which increasingly embraces indigenous culture vs imported cultures (typically American). However, somewhat misleading is the fact that 'post-colonial theory' is described as not simply the context after national independence, but the influence of colonisation from the initial time of colonisation to the present day. Interesting is the manner in which the west seeks to retain influence on ex-colonial cultures, such as the deployment of the author Tiffin, whose name was adopted by the aspirant Indians under the British Raj for light meal, taken from the civilities of afternoon tea. A subject area which is set to become ever more prominent in global popular culture as worldwide those people affected by in various ways by colonialism (from freedom fighter to 4th generation immigrant) are prompted to configure their own C21st identities].
'Post-Modernism' – a term applied to a wide variety of cultural practices and theoretical discourses associated with the 'post-modern experience', coming to the fore during the 1970s onward. Names such as William Burrows, Marshall McLuhan, John Barth and John Cage are viewed as the harbingers of the subject area, with others such as Kurt Vonnegut and Umberto Eco later proponents. The central aspect of much of this writings was the deliberate paradoxes and contradictions used, inter-playing genres and high and popular culture, so appealing to a wide audience. This intellectual hybridisation was also recognised in (typically American) architecture by critics such as Robert Venturi in his 'Learning from Las Vegas', observing the eclectic and magical results of largely 1950s 'pop-u-lux' styles, which themselves were often brash comic novelty mixed with high-brow classicism. Historically this evolved and ranged from “the decorated shed” (eg first Vegas Casinos and Shopping Mall environments) to “classicism with a twist” (eg Disney Corp's HQ and regeneration of Las Vegas along the 'New Strip'). Charles Jencks named this “double coding” by which two contrasting styles or more are deployed, as 'knowing juxtapositions'. From the philosophical angle, prime observers and instigators were the the likes of Jacques Derrida and Jean Baudrillard, whilst Jean-Francois Lyotard argues that 'grande narratives' are long past and that 'little narratives' now drive science, art and literature. Critical for him is the issue of 'scientific legitimacy' and the manner in which computerisation as information machines has and will massively changed the power structure of society; so much so that “one day for knowledge to be considered useful it will have to be turned into computerized data, leading to publication of 'The Inhuman'.
[NB as seen 'post-modernism' caught the wide academic consciousness by the mid-1970s and had real-world physical affect by the mid-1980s with the popularisation of a “simulacrum effect” becoming a wide and diverse field and so impacting a range of creative disciplines. From corporate architecture to the innately self-referential tropes and characters that typically sit as part of the background in a digital animation (eg the Toyota 'Pizza Planet' truck from Toy Story inserted into most of Pixar's cartoon movies). Under post-modernism it then appears that the two prime forces are then a) the physical world being constructed and re-constructed around the imaginary, computer created world of entertainment, and b) (as per Lyotard) the apparent subjugation of individual and mass human activity under computerisation, from leisure-time video-gaming by a wide age range, to the capital goods replacement of the low skilled employed via the computer. Exactly what the ultimate effects of (broadly termed) 'post-modernism' on western society at the macro and micro levels remains to be seen, whether it causes a general “contentment cohesiveness” or “reactionary fractures”].
'Projection' – in what appears an ever more disfunctional, even angry western society, the realm of psycho-analysis is being deployed to supposedly understand such trends. 'Projection' is the Freudian developed process which enables the subject to expel feelings. Used as an underlying element in the diagnosis of supposed paranoia. As per a supposed case of Freud in 1911, the phrase “I hate him” is miraculously transformed by 'projection' to “he hates me and is persecuting me”.
[NB In an increasing world of 'bio-politics' – see previous weblog – as well as the rise of the pharmaceutical sector regards old and new psychological ills, we shall see an increase in so called 'professionals' who have been trained in what is in reality the “pyscho-babble” of Freudian processes and diagnosis. Once again, drawing a parallel to the society of pre WW2 Germany is useful, wherein Viennese 'practicioners' such as Freud were developing structures of psycho-analysis to supposedly meet patients' problems. The fact is that these patients were largely drawn from the monied Christian Austro-Hungarian aristocracy and upper middle classes, who in a broader sense were themselves were under socio-economic attack from the counter-veiling Bolshevicks. However, reading between the lines of history, the patients themselves not so obviously attacked through violence and social propaganda, but through the association and assimilation. Certain tribes identified those who were both wealthy and who were overtly liberal with socialist ideals; typically naïve and open younger members of elite families. These were befriended by Bolshevik members and sympathisers and the target would be deliberately pyschologically hounded and damaged by their supposed friends; so as to create very real personal mental problems and so seek psychotherapeutic “help”. (Those who has greater social and self awareness would thankfully escape). The Viennese psycho-analysts, assuming (yet again) the character of friend and helper would then disingenuously try to erase the patients actual, natural and all too real understanding of his/her experiences, and moreover seek-out further fears, so as to be preyed upon by remote associates; aswell as also seeking to understand the inter-personal structures of family and friends; critically finding out who else might be likewise targeted. And so the process would be repeated. Since WW2 across North America, Europe and elsewhere this “pyscho-babble”, looks to have been preceded by long-term harassment, and has since been deployed in a similar manner upon unsuspecting members of a much enlarged middle-classes who have obtained independent wealth or who are set to inherit sizeable fortunes.
'Risk Society' – an expression deriving from the German sociologist Ulrich Beck, (1986) of how risk – its calculation and probability – has become an essential feature of modern societies. It is posited that the drive toward ever greater technological domination of the natural world, both raises living standards but also has high consequences of associated risk, albeit at a low probability. Global warming, chemical toxicity, ecological catastrophe etc, with nuclear accidents (as seen in Chernobyl and NE Japan) the most prolific. Living with a calculative attitude to such possibilities, typified by the use of [previously described] “what if” counter-factuals, becomes an essential feature of collective and individual life.
[NB the notion of risk is of course fundamental to the original establishment of the insurance sector, itself a primary element of today's massive global financial services sector. The broad expansion of societal activities and pursuits since the industrial revolution then applied the risk thinking and calculation that was once effectively only really applied to the fire risk of wooden buildings or to the storm sinking of trade ships. (Many long-standing or since absorbed insurance agents created after the Great Fire of London in 1666, and of course the association of Lloyds of London with maritime). Today, risk spans virtually every dimension of life, from the possibility of theft whilst on holiday to the under-taking of dangerous sports through to conventional commercial practices and now into the realms of very specialised financial markets and instruments. Given the importance of 'risk' today / tomorrow in terms of those payable premiums which are used as a float to underpin sizeable portions of the financial markets (inc. re-insurance), and the necessary need for that system to continue to grow global capitalism, it seems very likely that the essence of risk culture so endemic in society (now entrenched with the 'cotton-wool kids' syndrome) is set to remain].
'Romance' – originally a literary genre initiated in the Middle Ages, the term derives from the vernacular languages which evolved from the late antiquity of Latin (French, Italian, Spanish, Portugese and Romanian). The term propelled by the tales of romantic heroism and adventure, typically amongst European courtiers of the time, with special association to Roman-Catholic Christianity as a then propagandist method for creating crusading armies into the Middle-Eastern Holy Lands. Since the definition very much altered via the poetic tradition and thereafter 'romantic love'. In this mould first commonly applied to fictional literature in the C18th for middle-class female readership, itself moving from publications such as 'Clarissa' and 'Pride and Prejudice' (demonstrating the fantasy of an imploded class structure through a meeting of minds and morals) through to very specifically contextualised settings, often by which a remote or wild male figure is tamed or obtained by the female. With the C19th and C20th periods being those of relatively high geographic social mobility amongst workers, and aspects of the old class structure seemingly eradicated as poorer 'landed families' sought the financial heft of the newer entrepreneurial classes, so 'romance' became a new lever by which to meld people from (often very) different backgrounds. The genre has obviously been the critical element to the rationale of marriage, partnerships and off-spring, hence the ideals of romance have ever since been extolled by the entwined interplay of social expectations / aspirations and the culture industry.
[NB romance as known today obviously continues as the primary effector of western society. Whilst also operating as an important social lever over the last 20 years or so in BRIC, CIVETS and Pioneer nations, where it operates as a mechanism for social mobility and so performs as a corner-stone of aspirational capitalism. However, in the west and Japan, where as once it served as part of the social dream-scape, under-pinned by stable employment, economic growth and ideals of the nuclear family, that backdrop is today very much shifted. Whilst it will undoubtedly continue to influence, it seems probable that new formulae will influence, indeed for some dictate, the choice of partners, something akin to self-arranged partnerships with those of a very similar economic standing and conservative outlook. In this manner, for many who seek to both protect themselves from the financial ravages of divorce and recognise the new imperative to retain family wealth (even if relatively minimal) down through later generations, seeking very similarly situated partners (economically and intellectually) will become an increasing need. Thus, very possible if not probable, that the west partially returns to what is deemed as a lost yesteryear practice of (self) arranged marriages and partnerships with close social equals. In this way the west returns to a practice which until recently has been major aspect of previously poorer and cautious 2nd and 3rd world regions. Romance may not be dead, but it looks to become better balanced by a steadfast economic rationality by both astute males and females].
'Semiology / Semiotics' – defined by Saussure (1916) as the science of signs and the study of the life of signs within social life. At the time he believed the true science had yet to be developed, but asserted that eventually even linguists would be seen as a sub-category of semiotics. Fifty years later Roland Barthes broadened the definition to include all sign-systems including images, gestures and melodic sounds...“everything from a menu used to select and combine the items that make-up a meal through to the fashion system that operates in womans' magazines can be studied in semiological terms”.
[NB Obviously sign and signifier has for very long been part of human culture, early-on so as to identify the individual as part of a certain tribe or clique, ranging from clothing and regalia indicating status through to the uniqueness of a Freemason's handshake to indicate secret fellowship. But the modern world has seen the deployment of very semiotics grow almost exponentially, yet again obviously through aspects such as tribal affiliation, but also the necessary increase of very basic graphic forms and codification within both a bigger and more environmentally complex man-made world, and the need to similarly navigate an increasingly technologically driven world. Literal signs then the most basic of semiology. However, even at this simple level whilst navigational sign systems are generally well recognised and an easy aid (eg road signs) the complexity of a system must be appreciated between sender and receiver when relaying information, as recognised in a recent research project undertaken by the British motoring organisation the AA. It is understood that a modern car's dashboard can exhibit anything between 40 and 65 warning lights displaying vehicle systems related symbols, however, whilst meaningful to motorists of the past, many such symbols have become effectively foreign to the majority of mechanically ignorant drivers].
'Sub-Culture' – an aspect of general cultural studies, it started out effectively by stating the obvious about the youth identities of London's East-End, regards style of dress, alignment to popular music and territory demarcations. The term 'resistance through rituals' was coined by which the young seek to create their own self identity – albeit set by prevailing media manufactured trends. The sub-cultures studied in the UK were: mods, teddy boys, skinheads, rastafarians and hard drug users. Two female contributors noted that these sub-cultures were invariably male created, and that female created sub-cultures (to that point of the mid 1970s) did not really exist.
[NB given the power of mainstream societies in structuring an operable framework, sub-cultures have historically always tended to exist as an act of rebellion from the authoritarian mainstream. As with the animal kingdom. In the distant past tribal group leadership contests would invariably based upon an opposing sub-culture (belief), and if unsuccessful in gaining power would invariably relocate to create a new alternative social group. However, once this was not practicable for a society alternative social configurations were needed, which provided enough leeway for identity demarcation yet allowed for general social integration, this especially true amongst testosterone-fuel younger males, but also increasingly younger females' own striving for apparent autonomy.
The social constructs of sports*, fashion, music and later video games would be that framework.
* It is no coincidence that football was introduced to the masses and popularised in the same period that Saturday was added as a rest day and the 'weekend' was created].
'Social Engineering' – a popularised phrase at the beginning of the C20th, although the subject of improved societal control and the improvement of living standards for all discussed as a critical issue since the 1840s in Britain, and similarly later elsewhere in Europe and America. The issue gaining importance after periods of socio-economic turmoil, experienced with events such as the French Revolution and the brewing Russian Revolution. It spans much, from the very broad concept of scientific eugenics (itself later be recast as near demonic) through to the advent of socially enhancing urban planning with 'Garden Suburbs' and 'Garden Cities' movements and provision, as central to population growth and redistribution.
[NB given the essential need to organise, 'social engineering' has been with humanity in one form or another for millennia. As cities grow large and more frenetic, so central and local government, along with business, has had to evolve its thinking regards maintaining order and improving general conditions. Today this covers an even broader spectrum, from social order cameras in city centres, to the design of public transport to even the artworks shown on the walls of McDonalds and similar (eg use of an abstract design in local town centre restaurant which evokes a finger-print, so as to deter rowdy youngsters from shop-lifting and general theft). The monitoring and indeed manipulation of the internet perhaps the biggest enabler to social engineering, which like public space cameras, also seen an an infringement of personal liberty].
'Veblenism' – the term derived from the name of Thorstein Bunde Veblen, a American socio-economist at his pinnacle at the turn of the C20th. His book 'Theory of Leisure Class' (1899). 'Veblenism' as popularly understood in economics is the concept that in certain typically luxury orientated goods, the stated price of an item equates to its notional value. That is to say, whilst it has connotations of “you get what you pay for”, this is not the over-riding edict. Instead the price itself is the function usually demonstrating its affordability to the very wealth few. As Veblen explains, it is the innate irony that such high sums of money are used on often frivolous items that demonstrates the buyer/owner's own wealth and power. To a lesser extent, but similar, is the amount of expenditure spent on other wasteful forms of entertainment: gambling, narcotics, parties etc. Such consumption designed to confer prestige as the consumer can bear his/her losses with relative ease.
Thus social superiority is notionally gained (by the consumer's ego) via the expensive and exotic.
Veblen himself used his writings to spotlight the then contemporary attitudes in American culture, especially amongst the “nouveaux riches”.
[NB whilst conspicuous consumption is indeed a prime element of capitalism - given the innate model of a) money creation b) consumption c) production d) creation - to produce, it is well recognised that such activity obviously depends upon the socio-economic conditions of a specific period. Hence today, with the effects of the 2008 crisis still prevalent in the west, and the contraction of the Chinese economy with anti-corruption drives, new trends of both real and false puritanicalism have emerged, with either the genuine or fake desire by the wealthy to avoid being socially insensitive. Indeed, depending upon personal circumstance and environment, often the decision to be seen to be sensitive is actually the realisation that such forms of display may indeed provoke acts of aggression, typically vandalism on expensive vehicles, so in reality damage limitation exercises].
To Summise -
This basic compendium, spaced over the 2 weblogs, provides what investment-auto-motives hopes will be a new requestioning of social trends, with new forms emerging and the fragmentation of older genres.
Although each and every corporation operates slightly differently, their basic approaches and methods regards understanding the 'here and now' – and critically its formation of the future - are largely the same. To this end, the auto-sector should recognise the advances made elsewhere in other sectors, and seek to engrain such intelligence and expand its exploration into what at first appear very nebulous topics.