wisdom to win

 Wisdom to Win
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Vance Packard (1914-96)Vance Packard


American writer (pictured right) best known for his critique of the advertising industry (The Hidden Persuaders – see below)


Key books

The Hidden Persuaders (1957)


Advertisers are “depth manipulators”, because they sell products and ideas (the “engineered yes”) by:


1. Manipulating people’s subconscious


2. Satisfying people's psychological needs

(like self-worth and a good self-image).


We must resist these “hidden persuaders” and assert our right to be free human beings with a choice.


Other moral and environmental dangers from advertising are:


1. Psychological obsolescence

Persuading us to buy things we don’t need by creating dissatisfaction with what we have


2. Political manipulation

The true character of politicians is masked by image builders (in which marketing replaces the truth) .

“What is the morality of subordinating truth to cheerfulness in keeping the citizen posted on the state of his nation?”, Packard asks.


3. The packaged soul (or human engineering) 

Where people are programmed to buy products that satisfy their souls, so removing their spiritual freedom to make their own moral choices.


Key quotes on advertising and society

The most serious offence many of the depth manipulators commit...is that they try to invade the privacy of our minds.

 We still have the choice, and we cannot be too seriously manipulated if we know what is going on.

 The idea that you can merchandise candidates for high office like breakfast cereal...is the ultimate indignity to the democratic process (quoting Adlai Stevenson, the 1950’s American presidential candidate).


The Status Seekers (1959)

Prosperity doesn’t produce a classless society.

People, however rich, are:

  • divided by social class  
  • continually strive to improve their social status.

But these “status seekers” are unhappy, because they are psychologically and spiritually dissatisfied (suffering from low self-esteem and anxiety).

The socially mobile American Dream is a myth for many Americans, although they refuse to admit it.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to start at the bottom and reach the top.

So education must be improved to maximize everyone’s opportunities and potential, whatever their income or social class.


Key quote on happiness

We should all be happier, and live more stimulating lives, if...we judged people not by the symbols they display and the labels they wear but rather by their individual worth.


Key quote on America

America, under its gloss of prosperity, is undergoing a significant hardening of the arteries of its social system.


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