This is the eighth of a set of twelve course notes written in 1993 and revised across 1994 and 1995 for Technology and Human Existence, a half-semester first year option on the philosophy of technology.
Why is Technological Change so Endemic to Modern Society?
In the previous set of notes I introduced Marx’s theory of society and social change. I pointed out how Marx regarded the material basis of society, its technological equipment and the property relations which organise this equipment into a process of social production, as primary: in some not strictly causal sense it determined other social structures, institutions and systems, e.g., the society’s political system, religion, art and even its philosophy. I also pointed out that this theory of society and social change amounted to a rather subtle combination of two not so subtle determinisms, namely, technological and economic determinism. I want now to spell the structure of this theory out a little more, paying particular attention to what Marx means when he speaks of the productive process determining other aspects and dimensions of society. Once I have done this, I will draw upon the results of my discussion to answer the question of why technological change is so endemic to modern society in a way which makes clear the precise contributions of technology and the market to causing this phenomenon.
Marx’s theory of society and social change is able to combine technological and economic determinism because Marx’s basic category weaves technology and economic relations together. In the Preface to his “Critique of Political Economy” Marx insists that society and its legal, political, religious and cultural institutions must be understood in terms of “the material relations of life.” (p.389, Preface) So these “material relations of life” are for Marx the most basic of all social relations. They constitute the material basis of society, that is, they define the social process of production through which a society reproduces and maintains itself. Now in the social process of production, human beings, knowledge, skills, items of technology, raw materials and finished goods are all woven together into units of production, distribution and consumption according to the dominant system of property relations. This is true even of such relatively simple societies as feudal society: there are the serfs using simple tools and animals to work the land, the feudal lord collecting his tithes and administering his fiefdom, the merchants who buy surplus produce and sell it in the towns, the tradespeople in the towns and villages who makes tools and various artefacts, and so on. You can see from this example that the social process of production combines both the forces of production, i.e., technology, and the relations of production, i.e., the economic or property relations which make the society what it is, e.g., slave society, feudal society, capitalist society and so on.
Now since the concept of the social process of production is Marx’s basic category, it is evident that right from start he saw technology and the economy as inextricably interwoven. Ellul’s notion of a technique is useful here: we can say that for Marx, techniques are organised into systems of techniques, that is, into technological systems, and these systems are in turn linked together in a web of production, consumption and distribution, according to whatever kind of property relation happens to be dominant. Of course, in regarding technology and economy as interwoven in this way, Marx is not necessarily identifying them, or even suggesting that a certain kind of technology necessitates one and only one kind of property relation and vice versa. Clearly, he can still allow that the same techniques can be organised into a social process of production according to different kinds of property relation. The Soviet Union, for example, had technology which was basically similar to that of capitalist countries, but it organised this technology according to a different kind of property relation.
How, then, does Marx see the precise relations between technology and the economy, that is, between the forces of production and the relations of production or property relations? And how does each of these, and indeed the social process of production of which they are complementary parts, relate to the political, religious and intellectual institutions of society? Marx certainly did not conceive the relations between any of these things as one-way, or even as a straightforwardly causal one.1 Although he never spelt his conception out, he seems to have conceived the relations between technology, property relations, the social process of production of which these latter are parts and finally the so-called superstructure of society in a very complex and subtle way. I think one can capture the substance of Marx’s conception in four distinct claims. The first of these four claims is the following:
Claim 1. Certain kinds of productive process exclude certain kinds of legal, political, religious and cultural institutions.
That is, certain social processes of production are strictly incompatible with certain kinds of legal, political, religious and cultural institution. Democratic political institutions and attitudes, for example, are incompatible with the feudal process of production because this latter is in part defined by the fact that certain people are legally bound to a certain role in the process of production, and indeed to a quite specific location within it. Medieval serfs came with the land they worked; while they did not exactly belong to the feudal lord as slaves belong to their masters, they were legally bound by birth to a particular village, particular occupation and particular plot of land. Moreover, this property relation was more or less unconditional; there were no conditions attached to it such that if the feudal lord failed to observe these conditions, the bond was null and void—although feudal lords did stand under a moral obligation not to grind their serfs into the ground.2 The bond could be broken, but only onesidedly, namely, if the feudal lord chose to free the serf; serf could not free themselves of it. All in all, there was nothing contractual or consensual about being a serf; it was no kind of business agreement. Clearly, such relations of production are strictly incompatible with democracy, which insists on the equality of all persons in a society and thus can only allow one person to control another if this latter freely agrees to it. Equally clearly, capitalist relations of production, which people enter into only by at least ostensibly free agreement, are compatible with democracy.
The same kind of incompatibility can be found in certain kinds of art and in certain kinds of religion. Nineteenth century romantic art, for example, rested on the idea of individual artists expressing their emotions and personalities in all their subjective uniqueness, an idea which presupposed such values as the right of individuals to express and realise themselves and the equal worth of human subjects. Such art was therefore just as incompatible with the feudal process of production as these values themselves. Similarly, at least certain kinds of Christianity are also strictly incompatible with the feudal process of production. Throughout the history of Christianity sects have arisen which have regarded Christ’s teachings as requiring the equality of all persons in human society. Clearly, such sects could never have become the institutionalised and accepted religion of feudal society- as shown by the fact that medieval sects which believed this often attempted to withdraw from society or indeed to overthrow the existing social order. Naturally enough, they were never terribly successful and usually found themselves brutally suppressed.3
The second of the four claims which express how Marx saw the relations between the material base of society and the so-called superstructure is the following:
Claim 2. Certain kinds of technology, once they have been implemented on a sufficiently wide scale, exclude certain kinds of property relation, hence certain kinds of productive process.
It is at least conceivable that one or two feudal lords should introduce steam-driven factories onto their fiefdoms and to force their serfs to work in the factory rather than on the land. Provided that not too many feudal lords did this and provided that their factories were not too productive, such a development would not necessarily undermine the overall feudal order. But if this kind of thing became very widespread, then serious problems would arise. For one thing, there were be a massive amount of products created for which buyers would have to be found. So serfs and other commoners will have to be given greater purchasing power in order to prevent a glut in which the whole system would drown. But the serf only remained so docile because most of his time was spent securing enough to eat and drink; greater wealth thus undermines the bonds of necessity which reinforced the serf’s legal bond to the feudal lord. Furthermore, villages will have to become towns and towns cities, simply in order to sustain the people and machines implicated in this greater, collective effort of production. But feudal lords always had problems with towns and cities, which tended to fill up with independent tradespeople and merchants. Clearly, the large-scale use of steam technology, precisely because it is capable of so much more than any feudal technology, must ultimately destroy feudal property relations. Such technology is indeed, when widely used, strictly incompatible with feudal property relations and thus with the whole feudal process of production.
The third of the four claims which articulate how Marx saw the relations between the material base of society and the superstructure is:
Claim 3. The ultimate triumph of a new social process of production emerging out of an old one cannot be effectively opposed by the old economic order.
For Marx, human history is fundamentally a process of generating and resolving through social revolution conflicts between the forces of production and the existing relations of production or property relations. And according to Marx, no process of generating such a conflict can really be halted, at least not once it has got up a bit of steam. People will always try to invent new ways of doing things and will always avail themselves of the opportunities offered by these new techniques. But in so doing, they set forces in motion of which they have little or no understanding, forces which may come into conflict with existing relations of production and thus ultimately revolutionise the whole social order. Now Marx would certainly allow that when a new technology is invented, it is possible to nip its spread in the bud. But he would seem to believe that once it has got any kind of foothold, it must prove irresistible. Consequently, if it is the kind of new technology which can only be universally implemented under different relations of production, its irresistible advance must steadily erode the existing relations of production and create the kinds of relation that its universal implementation requires.
Finally, the fourth and last of the claims which express Marx’s conception of the relations between the material base of society and the superstructure is:
Claim 4. The rise of a new social process of production causes a period of intellectual ferment which forges the ideas and ideals upon which legal, political, religious and cultural institutions compatible with the new economic order will be based.
This fourth claim is in some ways just a consequence of the first and third ones. According to the first claim, certain kinds of social, political, religious and cultural institution are incompatible with certain kinds of productive process. Consequently, if within a society a new social process of production is slowly but irresistibly emerging, and if the social, political, religious and cultural institutions of the old order are incompatible with the new, then they will either decline or be transformed so as to fit the emerging economic order. In short, the emerging social process of production will provoke an intellectual crisis and a more or less radical redefinition of culture; this is what Marx means when he says that once a period of social revolution has begun and a change of economic foundations is under way, “… the entire immense superstructre (sic.) is more or less rapidly transformed.” (p.389, Preface)
Note that the only strictly causal claims are the third and the fourth. But although they, and in particular the third, are very strong claims, they are not as strong as the claims made by crude technological or economic determinism. In general, these four claims together embody a theory which, while giving a definite priority to one factor in society, namely, its productive process, does not render the other elements mere epiphenomenal. They in fact constitute an intelligible gloss on what Marx meant when he said,
Humans make their own history, but they do not make it in complete freedom. They do not make it under conditions of their own choosing, but rather in circumstances which they find given to them by their tradition.4
Note, too, that this account does not mean that the so-called superstructure, i.e., the legal, political, religious and cultural dimensions of society, cannot react back on the productive process of a society. On Marx’s theory it is still possible for the members of a society to act for ethical, political or religious reasons to curb the development of the forces of production, i.e., to curb or steer the development of new technologies.5 Of course, they must intervene in technological development earlier enough, for if they wait too long, then the new technology will have taken root in society, in so doing setting in motion all sorts of possibly uncontrollable forces. And it is of course possible for them to intervene to modify or even revolutionise the relations of production—provided, of course, that the relations of production which they seek to introduce are compatible with the existing forces of production. On Marx’s theory, the members of society could not, for example, choose to introduce the property relations of a slave society while retaining a level of technological sophistication which enabled massive production of the kind you get in modern society.
I think one can see from this closer description of how Marx sees the relation between the social process of production and the so-called the superstructure of society that Marx is not a determinist in any crude sense. Really, the productive process of society only determines these things in the sense that it set limits to them. Actually, for Marx the claim that a society’s process of production determines, at least in some sufficiently weak sense, its legal, political, religious and cultural institutions is not the really important or central claim. For him, what counts is a claim about change in society and the origins of such change. This central claim is that radical changes in the legal, political, religious and cultural institutions of a society occur only to the extent that radical changes in its process of production occur—whereby these radical changes in the process of production consist in the adjustment of property relations to improved and extended forces of production.6
So much for the exposition of Marx. I now want to use Marx’s central concept in order to explain how and why technological change could become endemic to a modern society like ours. Clearly, Marx’s central concept is that of the social process of production, of the productive process of a society. The productive process of a society is given by its forces of production and by its relations of production. The forces of production are the sum total of techniques, resources and land which are available to a society. The relations of production of a society are the relations of control and management over certain portions of the productive process which at least some people have. These relations of production organise and manage certain forces of production in such a way that an ongoing social process of production can take place. As I pointed out last time, Marx identifies the relations of production in society with its property relations because he believes that to control is to own and to own is to control.
You will recall that technologies tend to organise a certain kind of structured environment around themselves, that is, a web of systems which enables their proper functioning. The more complex the individual technological systems, the more complex the web of support systems. The various systems needed to keep, say, a jet fighter operational are much more diverse and internally complex than the systems needed to keep a Sopwith Camel running. And the systems needed to keep the latter running are much more diverse and complex than the systems needed by, say, a Roman catapult. Finally, the systems needed to keep the Roman catapult flinging stones around are more numerous and complex than the systems needed to keep a stone age spear in peak condition. Now these are all cases of military, or at least weapons, technology, and as such the web of systems into which each of these technologies fit are not also economic systems. The web of systems into which they fit does not constitute what Marx would call a process of production.
But when I made this point about how technologies organise a web of systems around them, and how the more complex the individual technological systems, the more complex this web becomes, I talked about things like steam engines, nuclear power plants and automobiles, considered not as leisure items, but as means of transportation. Tacitly, I was talking about technologies and webs of technological systems which also had an economic character. In fact, the web of systems we talked about in connection with the steam engine and the steam-driven spinning mill was in fact what Marx would have called the productive process of early industrial capitalism.
Now a web of systems like this is an economic one in two senses. Firstly, it is an economic system in the sense that the individual systems which belong to it are designed to produce goods and services for consumption, either by further systems or by people, who are of course the end consumers. But secondly, it is an economic system in the sense that the forces which push people, goods, services and information in and out of the systems in the web are economic or market ones. The kind of productive process which characterised early industrial capitalism was a free market one. Consequently, what linked up individual systems into a web and what propelled people, goods, services and information through the links of the web was market forces, the forces of supply and demand. Clearly, this stands in marked contrast to the webs of systems you get in the military, or indeed the webs of industrial systems you once got in the former communist countries of Eastern Europe. For in such webs it is the pressure of authority and command which pushes persons, goods, services and information in and out of individual systems. The webs of systems which made up the productive processes of the former communist countries, although they were economic in the first sense, were not economic in the second sense. They in fact ran much more like military systems: what pushed people, goods and information in and out of individual systems was the pressure of authority and command. This is of course why such economies were called command economies.
In contemporary society, however, the double identity which Marx gives the concept of the relations of production is no longer tenable. We must distinguish between relations of control and management within the productive process and relations of ownership. For in modern society the people who own the largest corporations or companies no longer control or manage them on a daily basis, although they certainly get together every so often to decide the company’s general direction and strategy. The reason for this split between owner and day-to-day manager is quite simple: modern firms are so large and complex, and they must operate in such a complex and changeable environment, that professional managers are needed to run them. This increased complexity and changeability has of course its cause in the unrestrained development of early industrial capitalism, which led to a massive, uncontrolled expansion in the productive apparatus, as individual owner/managers scrambled for profit and growth. As a result of this expansion the web of systems within which individual productive systems exist has become very tightly woven: today’s firms have many links to all sorts of other firms and ultimately these links stretch right across the globe. As I have pointed out in previous notes, this allows events far removed from an individual system to reverberate throughout the entire web to affect this system. And it allows the causal impact of such events to amplify as it spreads throughout the web, affecting more and more systems within it.
Thus, what one has these days is a web of systems in which people, goods and services are still propelled along its links by market forces, but whose changes and fluctuations are increasingly hard to predict and anticipate. This has led, I suggest, not merely to the professionalisation of management, and thus to the split between management and ownership. It has also changed what is involved in managing a firm, especially a large firm, which tends to have the most numerous and complex links with other systems. In situations where you do not know what world events might affect your firm’s operations, where you do not know what your competitors will do next, or indeed who all your competitors are and likely to be within the next few years or even months, what would be the best strategy for retaining the ability to anticipate events, thereby ensuring some ability to act effectively? Well, since you do not really know what is coming, how things will change or even who the competitors of tomorrow will be, you can retain some degree of anticipatability and thus control by being the front runner. If you can consciously determine the trends, then you will set the pace for all your competitors, whoever they are and wherever they come from. They will all have to follow your lead.
So a key part of running a large ship in increasingly unsettled economic waters would be to identify what the market wants in order to offer it more than it wants. For by offering more than it wants, even if this “more” does mean a not too exorbitant increase in price, you can actually lead the market. If you are a car manufacturer, you will offer lots of accessories where previously few had been offered. Or you will make what had previously been an option part of the standard configuration. Or you will make your cars better, with less defects, than your competitors. All these things are ways of ensuring that you set the standards to which other players must conform if they want to stay in the game. And clearly, this means that you will be continually be looking for ways of changing and improving your products which enable you to lead the market by offering more. Of course, if this is right, then the old idea of offering a certain line of tried and trusted products over many years will no longer be an acceptable management practice;7 the familiarity and established character of your products will no longer be an effective selling point.
Now if this is right, then a preparedness to change and innovate one’s products and techniques of production will become an essential behaviour for systems within a productive process which on the one hand is still lubricated and energised by market forces, but which on the other has become highly complex and interwoven as a result of intensive development of the productive forces, i.e., technology. All individual productive systems, whether they supply people with consumer goods, or other producers with resources and equipment, will be on the lookout for ways of lifting their game. And this will not be simply because they find themselves in a market situation where competition is intense; as I have pointed out already, throughout human history there have been all sorts of market with very high and very rapid levels of competition, e.g., in Antiquity during the trading empires of Carthage and Athens. Rather, the pressure to innovate will arise because individual productive systems find themselves having to compete on a market which is extraordinarily extensive, technologically complex and interwoven.
Summing up, then, rapid and endemic technological change arises in modern society for the following reasons: early capitalism brought about a massive development of the productive forces; individual capitalists saw opportunities to make money by employing new technologies and did so. The whole productive process thus became progressively more complex, technologically sophisticated and interwoven. But throughout this development it has basically remained a process driven by market forces. So the increasing complexity and interwovenness of the productive process meant the creation of an ever more complex and interwoven market. Because of its increasing complexity and interwovenness, the market became more and more unpredictable and changeable. It thus became harder and harder to anticipate events in time to respond effectively to them, and as a result, “leading the market”, i.e., setting the pace for all competitors, became increasingly important as a way of retaining the capacity to act effectively. Eventually, a certain critical mass was reached: the complexity, extensiveness and interwovenness of the web of productive systems became great enough to interact with the fact that this web was market-driven to produce a situation where significant numbers of individual productive systems were driven to adopt the strategy of “leading the market”. But “leading the market” involves the technological improvement of products and/or methods of production. Thus, technological innovation became an inbuilt and continual technical imperative of modern society.
Note that this account of why technological change is so rapid and endemic in modern society represents an adaptation of Marx’s account of social change: Development and extension of the forces of production render the original relations of capitalist production obsolete and in consequence these relations supplanted by new ones. More specifically, development and extension of the forces of production leads both to a split between managing and owning and, ultimately, to a change in the very character of managing itself. Where in early industrial capitalism the owner/manager is, at least as Marx portrays him, primarily concerned to maximise profit, today’s manager is primarily concerned to maintain the ability of the firm to anticipate events and thereby its ability to function. One crucial means of fulfilling this goal will be to pursue, at least as far as possible, a strategy of “leading the market”. And this will lead in turn to the necessity of incessant innovation.
Note, too, how this account exploits the subtle interplay of technological advance and economic relations which you find in Marx’s theory in order to explain a certain social change. What is interesting here is how sophisticated technology and a market-driven organisation of this sophisticated technology together combine to cause changes in the relations of production and ultimately to cause the incessant drive for innovation. As we have seen, the web of productive systems in the economies of the former communist countries were driven according to authority and command, much as in webs of military systems. Now in these systems, innovation of products and innovation in the productive process seem to have been rather sluggish, except, of course, in the armaments and space industries. This was presumably because there was no market in such economies. For it is not just the technological sophistication and complexity of the web of productive systems which renders incessant innovation the order of the day. It is also the fact that this technologically sophisticated and complex web is lubricated and energised by market forces.
Let me end by raising a further question to which this account suggests an important answer. This is the question of why command economies like those which existed in the former communist countries of Eastern Europe failed. The common, not to say commonplace answer is that these economic systems failed because managers and workers were lazy and inefficient, this because the system did not give them the material incentives which would have motivated them to work hard and efficiently. The strength of the market system is precisely that it rewards hard work and diligence.
Now there certainly was a great deal of indolence and economic stupidity in the economic systems of the former communist countries. But was this due to there being a lack of material incentives? By the time these systems were well and truly lost in the economic quagmire, the ruling Communist parties had in fact introduced all sorts of highly material incentives in order to get things going. But nothing worked. I think that this indicates that it was not really a lack of material incentives in these systems which caused their collapse, but rather a lack of incentives to do the right things at the right time. The problem with these economies was that they could not determine quickly and efficiently enough what things were needed when and where. The central planners could not work this out quickly and efficiently and because they were the only source of economic information for managers and workers in the individual factories and productive units, this meant that the managers and workers were getting bad information on how they should act. Consequently, the myriads of incentives which the system ended up offering managers and workers were by and large not incentives to take action which was right and appropriate in the circumstances. But clearly, if you do the wrong things, then, no matter how hard you work, things are not going to work out; the system must tend to collapse, even when all people in it are working like beavers either for material rewards or for the greater glory of socialism. Indeed, it is plausible to assume that after a while people will recognise that no matter how hard they work, things are not working out as they are supposed to. This recognition will itself lead to the kind of indolence, apathy and corruption which characterised the Communist economies of Eastern Europe as they neared their ends. So indolence, apathy and corruption is not a result of people’s intrinsic need for material incentives. It is a result of the inability of command economies to let people know at the right time what they should be doing. It is the great virtue of the market system that it enables this. The superiority of the market system does not consist in this, that it gives people material incentives and opportunities and opportunities to enrich themselves. Rather, its superiority lies in its ability to give people accurate information as to what needs and demands are out there waiting to be fulfilled by the productive process. Because it does this, the market system enables people to act to fulfil their particular goals and desires by engaging in activities which fulfil these needs and demands.
I take it that these last points are very important. For they intimate the falsity of the commonplace claim that socialist economies fail, whereas market economies work, because humans are intrinsically “materialistic”, greedy and selfish. They show that the question of human nature, i.e., of whether humans are or are not intrinsically “materialistic”, greedy and selfish, is really quite irrelevant. What caused the so-called socialist economies to collapse was their inability to identify with sufficient accuracy what actions were needed when and where to ensure that the productive process fulfilled existing needs and demands. Thus, however good or bad the personal motives and desires of people living in a centrally planned, socialist economy might be, the system would still not work. Whether I work to fulfil the needs of others because I want to build socialism, or whether I do so because I want a flashy villa in Toorak, if the action which I believe will fulfil these needs will not in fact, then obviously enough, I will not fulfil these needs by performing it. So whatever particular motives I have as an individual, a system which chronically provides inaccurate or inappropriate information as to what particular actions fulfil what particular needs will not work. (Nor will socialism be built nor I get my villa in Toorak!) The question of human motivation and human nature is ultimately irrelevant.
Of course, this argument cuts both ways. If the points just made about why the socialist economies collapsed is right, then it also follows that “changing human nature for the better”, whatever that might mean, will not necessarily solve humanity’s deepest problems. For these points suggest that any large-scale, technologically sophisticated society confronts a problem which market systems solve reasonably well and command economies solve very badly, a problem, moreover, which has nothing to do with the moral qualities of this society’s members. This is the problem of distributing information about material needs and demands in such a way that the productive process can fulfil them. Even utopia, at least if it wants or needs to be large-scale and technologically sophisticated, will have to face up to and solve this problem. In view of this problem, a question you might want to toss around in the light of these remarks is whether we are or are not stuck with the market system—not because we are such nasty creatures, but because a complex web of productive systems cannot function if it is not market-driven in some form or other.
Engels seems to have had a more strictly causal, deterministic view than Marx, although even Engels never conceived the connection as strictly one way. In a letter to Franz Mehring of July 14th, 1893, Engels complains about those critics of Marx who “almost deliberately forget” that”… a historical moment (Engels means an aspect of society—B.C.), once it has been brought about by other, and in the last instance, by economic causes, can also act backwards upon its environment and indeed its own causes.” See Ausgewählte Werke—Marx/Engels, Bd. VI, Berlin: Dietz Verlag, pp.597-598. ↩
This is where our expression “noblesse oblige” comes from; it is French for “nobility obliges”. ↩
Clearly, such sects are also incompatible with the capitalist order. Interestingly, however, those less revolutionary Protestant sects which during the Reformation concluded from the equality of all persons before God merely that God favoured the diligent, whatever social class they might come from, were compatible with the capitalist order and according to the great German sociologist, Max Weber (1864—1920), actually helped to advance the new capitalist relations of production. (Weber was thinking of the Calvinists in particular.) ↩
“The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte”, in Ausgewählte Werke—Marx/Engels, Bd. II, Berlin: Dietz Verlag, 1985, p.308. ↩
Marx would regard it as impossible that the members of society should radically reduce or restrict the forces of production which go to make up the productive process underlying their society. For Marx, the idea of turning the clock back to an age of less sophisticated technology would be both impossible and indeed repugnant. He was no admirer of technologically less powerful ways of life—see, for example, the Communist Manifesto, p.84, where he speaks of how the bourgeoisie, by creating large urban complexes, “has … rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life.” ↩
Note that I have deliberately formulated this sentence in a way which leaves it open whether the adjustment of property relations to improved and extended forces of production occurs simply occurs automatically, or as a result of deliberate human intervention. It seems that Marx believed that all previous social and political revolutions had occurred as result of a blind and unintended adjustment of property relations to improved and extended forces of production. But it seems he believed that the socialist revolution to come would not be like this. For this revolution would be guided by the theories of Marxism; it would thus be unique in that for the first time in human history revolutionaries would understand the true nature and dynamic of radical social and political change. So in this revolution, unlike all others, humans would deliberately intervene to adjust the property relations of society to a set of productive forces which had grown so powerful that the capitalist system found itself in continual crisis. ↩
If one looks at advertising from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, one finds, I think, many more advertising slogans of the kind “The soap Granny used”, “Recommended by thousands of satisfied customers”, “The old favourite”, etc. But these days these kinds of advertising appear as old-fashioned as the products they once advertised, e.g., Dubbo or Velvet soap. Even soap powders like Omo, Persil and Rinso, which actually go back many decades, have to be revitalised continually. ↩