- Editorial Introduction
For 2018's first issue, Advertising & Society Quarterly perhaps will take a place similar to what German philosopher Walter Benjamin called the "Angel of History": a figure that is situated in a turbulent present that keeps one eye on the past while being pressed into the future.1
Benjamin conceived the "Angel of History" in the middle of World War II after the troubling years following World War I. The world had to sift through the rubble of World War I. There were tremendous efforts to fight economic collapse in some countries after World War I and then globally during the Great Depression. Parts of the world also saw the rise of fascism rooted in fear and hatred of particular segments of society. This "Angel of History" presented Benjamin's reflections about history and human progress based on Paul Klee's 1920 painting Angelus Novus:
A Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back his turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.2
Today, the world is not in the middle of a global conflict like World War II. However, we are in a moment of tremendous cultural, economic, social, and political tension and unease. How can everyday people, governments, and companies (including brands and advertisers) react to senseless violence at home and abroad, the reemergence of xenophobic populism, extreme economic inequality, climate change, and the polarization of society around identity politics?
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The idea of Benjamin's "Angel of History" helps Advertising & Society Quarterly sort out advertising's place in working through these various questions. As the journal has always done, and especially in 2018, Advertising & Society Quarterly will look at advertising today but always with one eye turned back to the past while considering possibilities of an inevitable but unknown future.
In a reprint from Michael Schudson's 1984 book Advertising, The Uneasy Persuasion, as well as an accompanying interview with him on advertising and its relationship to journalism, readers are encouraged to think about the consequences of the advertising-saturated world in which they live. Kim Sheehan and Deborah Morrison's original article asks advertisers, professors, and students to consider advertising's contributions to climate change that have accompanied the rise of advanced mass consumerism. The issue's roundtable focuses on social media's place in building individual, brand, and community identities today and in the future, which seems to be much different from how identities were shaped before the advent of digital technologies. In an interview with Madonna Badger, a vocal industry critic of the treatment of women in advertising, one learns about the longstanding objectification of women and what she and her colleagues are doing to fight it today to ensure that girls and women are respected more in the future. In a recorded discussion with Judy Foster Davis about her book Pioneering African American Women in the Advertising Business, participants address the lack of information about African American women's contributions to advertising history, some improvements to diversity in advertising in recent years, and the need for much more work to make the advertising world more inclusive. To conclude the issue, Katherine Parkin describes...