Ernest Dichter, Motivation Research and the Making of the Disembedded Consumer, 1939-1965

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Twentieth-century consumer society was characterized by a process of "disembedding" as described by Karl Polanyi in The Great Transformation (1944) and the Austro-American consumer researcher Ernest Dichter played a key role in preparing the ideological framework necessary for this process to succeed. In order to assess Dichter’s role and that of Motivation Research in general in the creation of the concept of the disembedded consumer, the paper presents an analysis of around one hundred of Dichter’s unpublished consumer research reports ranging across different countries and industries between 1939 and 1965. Through content analysis and historical contextualization, I will show that Dichter and Motivation Research were instrumental in removing from existing market relationships the "invisible hand of social norms" (Varman and Costa, 2008). References Polanyi, Karl (1944), The Great Transformation: the Political and Economic Origins of our Time, Boston: Beacon Press. Varman, Rohit and Janeen Arnold Costa (2008), “Embedded Markets, Communities, and the Invisible Hand of Social Norms,” Journal of Macromarketing, 28 (June), 141-156.
Original languageEnglish
Book seriesEuropean Advances in Consumer Research
Pages (from-to)577-578
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 2011
EventThe European Association for Consumer Research Conference. EACR 2010 - School of Management at Royal Holloway, University of London, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 30 Jun 20103 Jul 2010
Conference number: 9


ConferenceThe European Association for Consumer Research Conference. EACR 2010
LocationSchool of Management at Royal Holloway, University of London
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address

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