Business, Anthropology, and Magical Systems: The Case of Advertising

Brian Moeran

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingArticle in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


    Magic is one of the oldest subjects of discussion and theorizing in anthropology. From time to time, anthropologists, as well as other scholars from other disciplines, have suggested that magic is not specific to “primitive” societies, but is alive and well in contemporary industrialised societies—witness advertising. Such discussions have been more general than specific. This paper applies Mauss' theory of magic more precisely to particular examples of advertising—in particular, his distinction between magicians, magical rites, and magical representations. It also argues that advertising's system of magi—encompassing related concepts of alchemy, animism, and enchantmen—is reflected in other business practices, which have developed their own parallel and interlocking systems of magic. Certain forms of capitalism, the—fashion, for example, or finance—may be analysed as a field of magical systems.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationEthnographic Praxis in Industry Conference Proceedings. EPIC 2014
    EditorsGary F. Gebhardt, Melea Press
    Place of PublicationArlington
    PublisherAmerican Anthropological Association
    Publication date2014
    Publication statusPublished - 2014
    EventEthnographic Praxis in Industry. EPIC 2014 - The Center for Positive Marketing at Fordham University, New York, United States
    Duration: 7 Sept 201410 Sept 2014


    ConferenceEthnographic Praxis in Industry. EPIC 2014
    LocationThe Center for Positive Marketing at Fordham University
    Country/TerritoryUnited States
    CityNew York
    Internet address
    SeriesEthnographic Praxis in Industry Conference. Conference Proceedings

    Cite this