Response to Industrial Revolution and Crisis of Control


After reading Beniger’s “Industrial Revolution and Crisis of Control,” I was intrigued mostly by the crisis in consumption and the idea that the Industrial Revolution was a Control Revolution. While much of the text examined the many problems that producers faced as technology advanced, it was not until the latter half of the lengthy text that the problems concerning consumerism were examined. Yet even these problems were looked at in the context of how they affected producers rather than how consumers were affected. This caused me to have many questions. But the question that irks me the most is this: are consumers controlled by advertisements? Although the rise of production of goods led to an increase in choice for consumers, advertisements allow producers to attempt to influence and control the consumers while encouraging them to use and want more than before.

A major factor in the rise of the use of advertisement came in the form of an oatmeal producer. Henry P. Crowell was able to build a oatmeal empire through his revolutionary marketing techniques. Crowell was incredibly innovative when it came to advertising. He used publicity stunts, free samples, scientific endorsements, prizes, and a multitude of other original commercial techniques while branding his product and using trademarks to influence the consumer. His results were astonishing. Though oatmeal had previously been regarded as a subpar food, it was thrust onto breakfast tables across the country as Americans bought into whatever Crowell was saying. How did this occur? Was Crowell truly a genius when it came to marketing, or were consumers so unused to advertising that they trusted blindly the new and bright ads of Crowell. Does advertising control the consumer? Or can consumers retain their abilities to choose while being influenced by a multitude of endorsements? It is apparent through the text that although consumers may retain some choosing ability, producers have become so adept at understanding consumer habits through feedback and other surveying tactics that they are experts when it comes to what consumers want. So are we as consumers being controlled by producers? Or do producers tend to our wants?

It is my opinion that society is profoundly influenced by advertisements. This allows producers to have power over consumers, which allows them to become profitable off of our interests. Yet if there were no advertisements, consumers would not be tempted by unnecessary luxuries. They could live without greed or without excessive wants. However, the Industrial Revolution and the Control Revolution that went along with it has prevented this from being possible. As men such as Crowell revolutionized advertisement, the relationship between consumers and producers was forever changed.

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