Advertising is often used to illustrate popular and academic debates about cultural and economic life. This book reviews cultural and sociological approaches to advertising and, using historical evidence, demonstrates that a rethink of the analysis of advertising is long overdue. Liz McFall surveys dominant and problematic tendencies within the current discourse. This book offers a thorough review of the literature and also introduces fresh empirical evidence. Advertising: A Cultural Economy uses a historical study of advertising to regain a sense of how it has been patterned, not by the `epoch', but by the interaction of institutional, organisational and technological forces.

The Uses of History

The uses of history

Greater understanding of cases does not generate general theories; instead it brings out the complexity of affairs and the extreme difficulty of producing generalizations which have any empirical validity. (Simpson, 1995: 12)


History is a quiet, understated but constant element in the edifice of critical explanations of advertising reviewed thus far. In a broad swathe of cultural critique – and not just that directed at advertising – claims about the distinctiveness of the contemporary moment are based upon a largely assumed history. Yet claims about the distinctiveness of the contemporary moment are inherently historical claims. To theorise about ruptures, transgressions and mutations is logically to invoke a different history, but the details of that history are largely absent from ...

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