Emancipation, Epiphany and Resistance: On the Underimagined and Overdetermined in Critical Marketing
The emerging area of 'critical marketing' claims that the value of importing critical social theory lies in its capacity to interrogate the basic assumptions and conventions that guide research and teaching practice and collective institutional development within the marketing discipline. In her reviews of the character and status of critical marketing, Burton (2001, 2005) bemoans the slow development of critical discourse in marketing, attributing it to "[a] lack of a theoretical tradition and relatively poor knowledge of theoretical developments in other social sciences" (2001:737). She broadly asserts that emancipation from the structures and strictures that bind marketing scholars to normalised institutionalised logics, such as performative means-ends calculus and naïve scientism, should be the goal of a critical marketing project that seeks to redress the lack of critical theoretical discourse within the discipline. This paper considers the claimed liberatory potential of critmar, arguing that notions of emancipation are not only situated and utopian in character, but undermined by the politics of representation: this is another way of saying that if we are to realise the reflexive, de-naturalising goals of critmar, we must theorise social contexts of marketing knowledge production. The paper discusses how it might be that self-consciously motivated critical theorising in marketing could make it possible to see and say different things than we are accustomed to; to interrogate our understanding anew, perhaps revealing new insights, or reminding us of past insights now forgotten. In this way the paper explores critmar's aim to open up collective disciplinary space for new voices and new sources of disciplinary capital, encouraging a theoretical pluralism within marketing that draws on the wider social sciences.