Game of Thrones

Late Capitalism or Latest Capitalism: Game of Thrones Edition

Ads for sandwiches, toilet paper, condoms, and more riffing off Game of Thrones show how market culture is a glorious "perpetual meaning machine."


So Game of Thrones is finis. This seems like a good time to recount how various consumer brands riffed off the show, even episodes depicting what were essentially war crimes. (In the second-to-last episode of the series, Daenerys Targaryen kills thousands of innocent city dwellers with the help of her fire-breathing dragon. As the official Snickers Twitter feed puts it, "Not smooth.")

Indeed, the speed with which brands hitched their wagon to the show demonstrates what the German poet Hans Magnus Enzensberger bemoaned as "the capacity of the capitalist society to reabsorb, suck up, swallow, 'cultural goods' of widely varying digestibility" (so too does the rise of Che Guevara t-shirts and t-shirts satirizing those shirts). Joseph Schumpeter famously identified "the perennial gale of creative destruction" as the "essential fact about capitalism." In response to ever-shifting demands from consumers, producer are "incessantly revolutioniz[ing] the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one."

So it is also with cultural expression, especially in an age of meme-ing, deep fakes, and nearly frictionless reproduction. Now more than ever, pop culture (including advertising) is a perpetual meaning machine in which appropriation, reappropriation, and misappropriation are ubiquitous and inevitable. Because of the rise of empowering technology and the related breakdown of gatekeepers, more of us than ever before are joining a conversation once restricted to the high priests of politics, the academy, or the corporate suite.

Folks who believe we are in the days of "late capitalism"—the period in which the internal contradictions outlined by Marx and Engels are becoming visible, suggesting we are only days, months, or years from a proletarian revolution—might want to chomp on a Snickers themselves. In the past couple of decades, increases in international trade have helped to lift billions out of poverty and, even more amazingly, deliver middle-class standards of living to a majority of the planet's population. T

he internet is awash in user-generated content, and whatever you can say about social media, it's made more of us participants rather than mere observers in our culture. That's all very smooth.

Here are some Twitter ads featuring Game of Thrones (courtesy of Lexy Garcia). Enjoy them before we all move on the next thing.


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  1. “Nearly frictionless reproduction “..

    You mean like glide or k-y?

  2. An Iron Throne toilet would be a really bad idea. Those swords were still sharp.

    1. They will prevent hemorrhoids.

  3. Because of the rise of empowering technology and the related breakdown of gatekeepers,

    Which resulted in the creation of new gatekeepers. But go on.

  4. Fire & Ice condoms: Just the right touch of menthol.
    But real men and women prefer capsaicin.

  5. he internet is awash in user-generated content, and whatever you can say about social media, it’s made more of us participants rather than mere observers in our culture. That’s all very smooth.

    Weeellll, as long as your opinions fit into the acceptable range of mainstream ideas, you should be ok.

    1. That’s the point of capitalism. If there is a population of people wanting your message, they will buy it. Though it is noteworthy that in this day and age of Cafe Press t-shirt shops, a message hardly needs to be mainstream to find a market. Indeed, finding that sweet spot between obscure and played out is an art that has made many a t-shirt artist their pete’s coffee money.

      1. You’ve kind of whiffed the point. There are people willing to buy ideas but it still requires a backbone to carry them. If the backbone refuses I guess there’s still a megaphone and sandwich board on a street corner. They can’t take that away from us.

        Otherwise we merely have the right to speak with an un-amplified voice in a public square of the government’s choosing. Totes free speech.

  6. Late Capitalism as another idiotic Marxist term. That’s like saying Late Freedom or Late Justice.

    You either have freedom or you don’t. ‘All the arguments against Capitalism is just a lack of belief in Freedom itself’

    —Milton Friedman

  7. WTF is this article.

    1. More Vox

  8. Interesting Gorsuch decision

    Looks like Sotomayor and Gorsuch are ending up agreeing on a lot of issues.

    Why did all the conservative justices vote against this?

    1. if Gorsuch and Sotomayor agree on something that’s usually the correct decision. I have my problems with Sotomayor but she’s the closest to a civil libertarian the liberal wing of the court has.

      1. agreed

  9. >>>depicting what were essentially war crimes

    in 2019 earth yes, in their forum likely not

  10. >>>T

    he internet is awash in user-generated content

    one would think freelance editors would be more plentiful.

  11. ‘Game of Thrones’ finale sets records with 13.6 million TV viewers.
    In the olds days this would have been cancelled halfway through the first season.

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