The Propaganda of Capitalism

Last week's series of American Legion magazine covers resulted in an interesting discussion in the comments section about Communism, Capitalism and the nature of propaganda. It got me thinking once again about how industry presented itself to the public through advertising during the mid-century. So I pulled out my stack of early 1950s Fortune magazines and found something very interesting.

The cover of the February 1953 issue of Fortune describes how this issue contains an in-depth look at the Soviet military/industrial complex.

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Ironically, those 4 articles on Russia share space with an ad campaign unlike any I've ever seen - in Fortune or any other magazine.

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General Electric chose that issue to present a multi-page ad campaign extolling their seemingly limitless accomplishments in industrial innovation.

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The design esthetic GE employed for this campaign - a multitude of propaganda-style mini-posters - is so similar to that seen in Russian Constructivist art, one could easily imagine these posters being produced behind the Iron Curtain by some Soviet "Ministry of Machine Parts."

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Sometimes the imagery (and the message) is fervently militaristic.

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Sometimes it is aptly industrial.

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Often it is remarkably pleasing, despite some really dull subject matter...

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... and sometimes its amusingly obscure (to anyone but the hardcore technician, that is).

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But what really impresses me is how consistently visually excellent it is. I could stare at these posters for hours. I could see hanging them on my walls!

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Page after page after page of clean, colourful, simple, beautiful poster design - about subject matter I (and I'm guessing most other people) have absolutely no interest in!

These posters make the dull, utilitarian mechanisms of industry seem like something actually worth celebrating!

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But then, isn't that the role of advertising... and propaganda?

* You'll find many more examples of mid-century 'industrial propaganda' in my Industry Flickr set.

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