Postmodernism and Marketing

Postmodernism and Marketing

Posted in [Violins] By James Robinson

The following is taken from a lecture I wrote and presented to my class of first year marketing students at James Cook University about 8 years ago.

If you will recall, during this past semester, I have endeavored to sprinkle my lectures with the spice of irreverance, from time to time,towards some of those marketing concepts and theories from 'on-high'. Indeed, I have used such inspired academic terms such as 'a load of crap' and 'bull-shit'.

These touches of postmodern enlightenment, would no doubt be scorned by most any other academic, and probably would be seen to be blasphemous to such 'gods' 

of modern Marketing such as Kotler and McArthur. However, these guys, and some others I can think of, have been pretty good at working a crowd and therefore mildly entertaining at least.

From a postmodern marketing perspective, I have given you some of the cynical seeds needed for success ; namely 'walk-the-walk' and 'talk-the-talk'.

Many postmodernists are either leftist, leftist has-beens, leftist wanna be's or closet leftists. These people, in the deepest recesses of their mind think that Marx was really on track, just too far ahead of his time. His contemporary adherants just really didn't understand this and jumped the gun.

There is one particular quotation in our textbook that struck my fancy, and therefore, there must be truth in it.

Fittingly, in a postmodern way, it is a quote from another book. The author is Nietzche and the quote is: "Profound problems are best treated like cold baths - quick in, quick out" If Nietzche was instead referring to overweight maketing lecturers he would undoubtable change it to read; profound frustrations are best treated like cold showers - quick in, stay in.

This sobering and rather unpleasant thought can be extended into some of the deepest caverns of marketing theory; namely The Four P's. These started out in life as the 12 P's and then became 6 P's.

The amount of Pee changes over time and author. However not to be out done, Postmodern Marketing adds another 4 P's to the soup. If you are feeling up to your eyeballs in Pee, I beg you to wait for just a little longer.

These new 4 P's are; Practice, Principals, Philosophy and Prescriptions. Isn't the current Practice of marketing disintegrating? Isn't there a fragmentation of markets into smaller and smaller segments? What about the rise of a new individualism and the unpredictability in selling to Generation Y ?

There are increasing declarations of discontent with long established marketing Principals.This sence of crisis is exacerbated by the plethora of marketing Prescriptions. In addition, the Philosophies of ethics as taught in most all Business Schools these days is commonly seen as an oxymoron.

As Marshall Berman so eloquently put it, to be modern "is to find ourselves in an environment that promises adventure, power, joy, growth, transformation and at the same time threatens to destroy everything we are... modernity can be said to unite all mankind. But it is a paradoxical unity, a unity of disunity; it pours all into a maelstrom of perpetual disintigration and renewal, of struggle and contradiction, of ambiguity and anguish. To be modern is to be part of a universe in which Karl Marx said ' all that is solid melts into the air."

According to Baudrillard, the so called high priest of postmodernism, it is characterised by a culture of exhaustion, where every possibility in art, politics and society has already been tried and the only option is to recycle the forms that already exist. History has ended, the future has already happened.

However, in the postmodern world, even this rich chocolate - cake pessimism is paradoxical. Meaning is difficult to tie down. It's contingent, unstable, temporary, postponed and dependent on the context.

The postmodern condition, therefore, is one of incredulity towards metanarratives, a refusal to accept that there is one particular way of doing things. No form of knowledge is priviliged.

Rather than search for non-existant truths, we shouold be sensitive to differences and the perspectives of marginalised groups, excercise the art of judgement in the absence of rules.

Do you buy it? Make no mistake, buying into postmodernism does not come cheap.

‘The Work’ is what it was called. Some people called it ‘The Third Way.’ What I am referring to is the system or teaching as passed down by George Ivanovich Gurdjieff, that strange Russian mystic teacher. I was a member of the London group which was led by the Gloucesters’. I don’t remember their first names.

This was an Esoteric School, not, by any means, a cult. I think there were a number of other groups in London but I have no knowledge of them except that sometimes when I joined a ‘movement’ class, there were lots of people there that I had never seen before.

The Gloucesters had been members of a group led by Maurice Nicoll, a famous psychologist whom I believe spent time with Gurdjieff. Most of the meetings I attended were in the very early mornings at the Gloucesters very exclusive and impressive penthouse apartment across from Hyde Park, in London.

This all came about as a result of a friendship I had with a young violinist who was a member of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Due to my uncharacteristic insistence, he introduced me to Mrs. Gloucester , however this was not any kind of proselytizing on his part, but rather a strange kind of favor. After an initial conversation with Mrs. G she invited me to join her group, but I was instructed to not discuss anything about the group with any one else. Also, I was never asked for any money nor did I ever pay any money for any of the different meetings and activities I attended over a period of only a few years.

Some of the early morning sessions were about developing ‘attention’ through a special meditation practice. During and sometimes afterwards, I experienced a strange ‘super memory’ that I have not had since. Some meetings involved discussions about ‘attention’ tasks we were asked to secretly practice during the week and others were group readings of Gurdjieff’s main work; Beezelbub’s Tales to His Grandson . Anyone familiar with this book knows that he wrote in an unusual way and had a habit of making up new words loaded with special meanings. Ouspensky’s main book In Search of the Miraculous, was also discussed in some of these meetings.

The Gloucesters also owned a large beautiful estate in the countryside. Sometimes, on a weekend, the group I was in would go there to practice ‘attention’ while performing certain manual activities.

As mentioned above, the ‘movement’ classes were another activity I participated in.

These were practiced in a large group, arranged in rows, beginners like myself, at the back. The music was very unusual and was played on a piano for the class. These movements were very complex, so a ‘normal’ approach of trying hard to remember what to do and what came next was never very successful. Instead, one needed a mental state of heightened ‘attention’ and a kind of letting go/trust to make progress on these movements.

These were interesting times for me and I met some very remarkable people. One of them was Norelle Hardie, a Scottish artist who had been in The Work for many years. As it happens, one thing led to another and we decided to open a violin shop. As luck would have it, she had a couple old friends who assisted us with providing capital and business expertise. A building was acquired right on Portobello Road with a great shop front and two flats above. I lived in one and she lived in the other.

In those days I was a violin maker at the firm of Ealing Strings which was owned by Malcolm Sadler and three partners. The firm had a big workshop and I managed to convince one of my colleagues there Adam Whone to become a partner with us. Later Martin Godliman formally of W.E. Hill and Sons, and then Paul Ayers also joined us as a partner. 

Later, I decided to leave The Work with out any dramas, and I became a Nichirin Shoshu Buddhist, along with Norelle and Adam, but that was all many years ago now…….

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