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Coercion: Why We Listen to What "They" Say Paperback – Oct 1 2000

4.5 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books (Oct. 1 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 157322829X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573228299
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 2.2 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 272 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #424,608 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

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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Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I was wondering why I bought this tape. Well, it was because Walgreen's had a bunch of bargain tapes prominently featured in their store, and the music playing had a subliminal message that said buy me. Seriously, Rushkoff does a good job of detailing how people are influenced to buy a product, subscribe to a belief, or follow a messianic leader.
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.
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Format: Paperback
Even those of us who believe ourselves to be savvy consumers, and strive to be rational beings, are prey to subtle forms of manipulation that affect not only what we buy, but how we vote, what we do, and even what we think! Rushkoff's analysis of atmospherics, spectacles, public relations, advertising, pyramids (or Ponzi schemes) and virtual marketing is enlightening -- although I do think the parallel he draws between Apple and a cult is far-fetched (but then, so would say a true cult convert!) The hand-to-hand chapter on sales techniques is fascinating. I am still trying to figure out how ever I'll manage to resist some of the clever approaches used to create goodwill, instill confusion and elicit compliance. The state of suspended animation achieved by good salesmen is also used by CIA interrogators and based on dissociation, when one's current situation is reframed in fantasy (e.g. during a demo drive, when the customer is asked whether that's the type of vehicle he would like to own, it is the same as if while reading a book, you were asked if this is the kind of book you can imagine yourself reading). I was surprised at the author's respect (and resulting wariness) for neuro-linguistic programming (he claims NLP trechniques are used for mass manipulation while they should be restricted to therapists); my understanding is that NLP is a monumental hoax. Mr. Rushkoff may not be as immune to cultish fads as he believes himself to be, but then he is still young, if no longer the 26-year-old who was, for a while, seduced enough by a New Age cult to pay for two or three 200$ "color cleansings".
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Format: Paperback
This is a very mediocre book, and somewhat annoying to read. It is annoying because Rushkoff attempts to coerce the reader into accepting his subjective views with a breathless, repetitive use of the same adjectives and opinions throughout. It is mediocre because it is short on substantive research - either psychological or market research; possibly, a lot of the good market research is proprietary. Its strong points are Rushkoff's anecdotes, and some good summaries of what is going on in marketing, including advertising, sales environment, and salesmanship. Incidentally, I am fairly liberal, so it is not my ideology speaking.
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Format: Paperback
Douglas Rushkoff used to be a lot more hopeful that the rise of the Internet would free us from the "arms race" of manipulation and counter-manipulation to which we're subjected through the major media. He's changed his mind, in part because he found that his earlier work (notably the famous _Media Virus!_) was being taught in marketing classes to people who wanted to _create_ media viruses.
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.
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