Thursday, July 5, 2012

Objective vs. Subjective Culture and Branding - Simmel

What if we coupled innovation, meaningful positioning, strategic design, cohesive and coherent organizational culture, information technology, corporate social responsibility, etc. etc. and actually came up with an integrated approach to running a business. That would be cool.

The sociologist Georg Simmel would have thought branding was a bad thing - it is fast outpacing the capacity of individuals to think independently and creative on their own. He said: "The tragedy of culture occurs when the growth of objective culture outpaces the growth of subjective culture."

(If anyone is interested here is an article I wrote awhile back on Simmel and branding.) 

It's true that Simmel's "objective vs. subjective culture" is not that simple.

Wherever you stand on the matter - that it's a facile distinction or not - it's clear as rain that you see it all the time.

Look at today's Wall Street Journal - the Personal Journal section - top of the fold story is about people who go on vacation and HIRE PHOTOGRAPHERS to document how happy they are. That is the epitome of the clash between subjective (private creation of meaning) and objective (assimilation of the private to the public).

I am so tempted to berate these people. Yet what are they doing that is so different than real life? Are we not all, constantly, battling the conflict between simply living our lives, and framing/reframing?

The insidious corruption of the personal with the commercial. The nagging realization that while your loved ones love you for your use-value, the world only wants your exchange-value. And the sadness that these are not, and can never be, the same.