Coercion: Why We Listen to What "They" Say Paperback – Oct 1 2000
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In 1994's Cyberia: Life in the Trenches of Hyperspace, Douglas Rushkoff extolled the democratic promise of the then-emergent Internet, but the once optimistic author has grown a bit disillusioned with what the Net--and the rest of the world--has become. His exuberantly written, disturbing Coercion may induce paranoia in readers as it illuminates the countless ways marketing has insinuated itself not just into every aspect of Western culture but into our individual lives. Rushkoff opens with a series of pronouncements: "They say human beings use only ten percent of their brains.... They say Prozac alleviates depression." But "who, exactly, are 'they,'" he asks, and "why do we listen to them?"
Marketing continues to grow more aggressive, and Rushkoff tracks the increasingly coercive techniques it employs to ingrain its message in the minds of consumers, as well as the results: toddlers can recognize the golden arches of McDonald's, young rebels get tattooed with the Nike swoosh, and news stories are increasingly taken verbatim from company press releases. "Corporations and consumers are in a coercive arms race," argues Rushkoff. "Every effort we make to regain authority over our actions is met by an even greater effort to usurp it." As he surveys the visual, aural, and scented shopping environment and interviews salesmen, public relations men, telemarketers, admen, and consumers, Rushkoff--who admits to being one of "them" in his occasional capacity as paid corporate consultant--concludes that "they" are just "us" and that the only way the process of coercion can be reversed is to refuse to comply. "Without us," he assures, "they don't exist." --Kera Bolonik --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Until recently a cyber-optimist who, in popular books like Cyberia and Media Virus, augured a digital revolution, Rushkoff now warns that the promise of the Net as an open-ended civic forum is fading as relentless corporate marketers peddle their wares and capitalize on shortened attention spans. In a scathing critique that extends far beyond cyberspace in scope, Rushkoff identifies the subtle forms of coercion used by advertisers, public relations experts, politicians, religious leaders and customer service reps, among others. Retreading territory covered by critic Neil Postman and others, Rushkoff provides additional examples of how the ordinary person is often unsuspectingly manipulated, whether in the shopping mall, at a sports event or in a Muzak-drenched store or office. This analysis is particularly strong when deconstructing the "postmodern" techniques of persuasion that advertisers use to reach increasingly cynical target audiences, including commercials that self-consciously mock the marketing process. Rushkoff also argues that mass spectacles (e.g., rock festivals, Louis Farrakhan's Million Man March, Promise Keepers rallies) foster "tribal loyalty" but are often contrived, commercial or downright destructive. He devotes a chapter to pyramid schemes used by cults, infomercials, Internet con artists and get-rich-quick marketers. His freewheeling survey underscores the social cost of these coercive strategies, which, he says, tend to make us see one another as marks. Despite his up-to-the-minute examples, however, his overall analysis is not fresh or original enough to take the place of Vance Packard's The Hidden Persuaders. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
I think Rushkoff is suspious of all people or companies trying to sell a product. However, in most cases, he details how Western style societies have been influenced by consumerism, and how companies have refined their selling habits to sell their services and products. Rushkoff does not just stop at the selling of products. He talks about why people join and stay in cults, why people follow political leaders, the effects of the worldwide web and internet on people, and pyramid schemes. In modern marketing, as well as these, people are coerced in subscribing to alien beliefs or products. This is why people need to understand these principles in order to avoid the damage of coercion on their person.
The book is relatively interesting. A good book for those interested in the decision making process of the Western consumer.
But he hasn't turned into a pessimist; he still thinks we can break the cycle, and this book is supposed to help us do it. And given his subject, he writes with a refreshing lack of paranoia: he's well aware that all of these techniques are (a) based on common features of "human nature" that ordinarily serve us just fine, and (b) used all the time, to some degree, by all of us. "We are all coercers," he says," and we are all coerced."
As you read the book, it will help to be aware of something Rushkoff doesn't actually get around to explaining until his closing chapter: by "coercion" he means the sort of "persuasion" that is intended to make it difficult or impossible for us to exercise our better judgment -- as distinguished from genuine, no-scare-quotes persuasion, which engages our reason rather than trying to short-circuit it. Bear that in mind if you think -- as I initially did -- that he's confusing coercion and persuasion.
What he's actually talking about is what people of approximately my generation would at one time have called a "mind-cop." (That term, by the way, has very nearly the same literal meaning as "geneivat da'at," or "stealing the mind" -- a term used in Jewish law for certain sorts of deception.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
i first read this book last year and it blew my mind. since then i have read alot of political authors including but not limited to noam chomsky, morris berman, howard zinn, al... Read morePublished on March 16 2004 by Dr. Putnam
This book is a little long which, for me, translates to it having missed the mark. Although I've a long standing belief that people are coerced into acting, buying and believing a... Read morePublished on April 21 2003 by Bill Oterson
Douglass Rushkoff , to put it simply, here tells us about the psychology of a purchase, whether we are sold on a product, service, idiology, or way of life. Read morePublished on Oct. 21 2002
This is an enlightening read--a broad overview of subtle coercion and a definitive explanation of the ubiquitous "they" who have so much influence over most of us. Read morePublished on Sept. 9 2002 by ApparentNewParent
This is a very interesting book written by a very accessible author. The book deconstructs the various methods of control that big business exerts over consumers. Read morePublished on April 20 2002 by steve h
A charismatic Brit and his entourage of overeducated dropouts take over a piano factory in Oakland, intending to squat there and throw the most massive raves the Bay Area has ever... Read morePublished on Feb. 23 2002
In the early 90's Douglas Rushkoff wrote a book titled "Media Virus." It described how the Internet Age would render marketing usless. Read morePublished on Feb. 2 2002 by Mark Wieczorek
Douglas Rushkoff, a man best described as a cross between Marshall McLuhan and Malcolm McLaren, here presents a brilliant expose of the all-pervasive coercion in modern Western... Read morePublished on Nov. 29 2001 by Timothy Walker
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