Affirmative advertising and the mediated feeling rules of neoliberalism

Rosalind Gill, Akane Kanai

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review


This chapter considers the contemporary proliferation of affirmative and inspirational messages across media as part of the “psychological turn” in neoliberalism. Extending contemporary understandings of neoliberalism beyond the familiar focus upon economic and political power, we seek to demonstrate how it operates as an everyday sensibility that shapes modes of relating to the self and others through mediated “feeling rules.” In the first part of the chapter, we argue for the need to pay attention to the affective and psychic elements of neoliberalism. We then develop this critique through examining two case studies: first, the exhortation to confidence and self-work in “love your body” advertising; and second, the hollow diversity underpinning the reassuring claim that “we’re all worth it” in L’Oréal’s Prince’s Trust campaign. Affirmative advertising, we suggest, responds to social justice activism based on unequal identities by promising visibility and inclusion in the consumer marketplace. Analyzed through the lens of a critique of neoliberalism, this advertising culture “takes diversity into account,” but only to empty any particular differences of their meaning and social significance.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNeoliberalism and The Media
EditorsMarian Meyers
Place of PublicationNew York NY USA
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9781315106045
ISBN (Print)9781138094437, 9781138094420
Publication statusPublished - 18 Feb 2019

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