While doing some groundwork for our next Marketing and Communications Strategy, I came across this quote from Gilles Deleuze: ‘Marketing has become the centre or the “soul” of the corporation’ (in Du Gay, P. (2000), “Markets and meanings: re-imagining organisational life”, in Schultz, M., Hatch, M.J., Larsen, M.H. (Eds),The Expressive Organization, OUP – itself an interesting article about the role of ‘disciplines of symbolic expertise’ in modern organisations).
Deleuze isn’t implying that a marketing-ensoulled organisation is a good thing, as a broader quoting of the passage indicates: ‘Corruption thereby gains a new power. Marketing has become the centre or the “soul” of the corporation. We are taught that corporations have a soul, which is the most terrifying news in the world.’
He goes on to say that ‘The operation of markets is now the instrument of social control and forms the impudent breed of our masters‘ (italics mine). I like the phrase ‘the impudent breed’ – like a sequel to This Happy Breed, perhaps, based on a group of cheeky (yet evil and omnipotent) marketing folks; or a departmental strapline; or perhaps a title for yet another blog. I’m by no means sure that I follow what is meant (perhaps it’s a hard to translate passage – I can’t quite following what is forming who and where the impudence comes from).
Difficulties with translation aside, I’ve found my first conscious dip into Deleuze quite exhilarating. For a piece published in 1990 it seem remarkably prescient in its description of a ‘control society’ where the computer is the defining technology, continuous monitoring places everyone in a universal system, where one is ‘undulatory, in orbit, in a continuous network’ and ‘Everywhere surfing has already replaced the older sports’.
By empathising with a piece that situates ‘marketing’ within a dystopian vision, am I adopting a position which would logically lead me to seek a different line of work? Possibly, though I would make a case for social marketing as being somewhat more benevolent than the control-force of late capitalism, and point out that marketing for a university is an enabling structure for exploration of radical thought to take place, Deleuze’ ideas being just one example.
The whole article can be read here.