- The article is at the end of this post.
- The article appears to be in the vein it is quoted - more a prescription of how retailers will have to market things than a critique of capitalism. But the quote itself shows he had a macro perspective as well as a micro perspective
- I haven't been able to find much more about Victor Lebow.
- There is the 1972 book titled, Free Market: The Opiate of the American People. Perhaps he got disillusioned about American business and this quote was an early insight he had.
- Are there any students of Lebow? Family? If you ever see this please help fill in the missing links.
- Kevin, this post is all your fault. Thanks.
[Update 13 May 2009: Yesterday's NYT article on Story of Stuff seems to have brought more than the regular number visitors here. Hundredgoals has given a link to a much easier to read pdf version of the 1955 article in a comment today.]
In a previous post I raised questions about a quote by Victor Lebow. Was this the serious blueprint for American business to insinuate consumerism into the spiritual center of American life or a critique of modern capitalism?
Most of the links I googled looked like they all linked back to the same source. There was no contemporary discussion of the 1955 article on line. The University library nearby didn't have the Journal of Retailing on line back to 1955, but did have hard copies. But then I found a 1972 book by Victor Lebow called Free Enterprise: The Opium of the American People. It seemed to me that someone writing a book with that title must have have written the above paragraph as a critique, not as a prescription. I decided not to follow up and find the original article.
But I got an email from Kevin in Chicago who was trying to track it down too. So I went to the library today. Got the microfiche and found the article. It looks like a serious retailing article, talks about the 1955 marketing year and what retailers are going to have to do. It's in that context the above quote is written. There is no electronic version available, and the copier connected to the microfiche wasn't working very well, so I ended up taking pictures. I still haven't figured out how to post pdf files on blogger, so I'm going to post the pictures of the microfiche screen. (See below)
In the midst of all this there was a fire alarm in the library and everyone had to evacuate. A staff person, it turned out, had burnt popcorn in the microwave. That all took about 40 minutes.
Googling today I've found a 1944 article:
The Nature of Postwar Retail Competition
Victor Lebow Journal of Marketing, Vol. 9, No. 1 (Jul., 1944), pp. 11-18. [The link gets you page 1]
An OCTOBER 13, 1976 Manas Reprint article "MOTIVES OR METHODS?" that talks about a Victor Lebow book review of Robert Heilbroner's Business Civilization in Decline. Here Lebow appears as a critique of modern business culture, and is qouted writing, for example,
Capitalism is already showing signs that it can no longer generate the social morale so essential to continued existence. It is true that it has freed probably more than half the American people from scarcity and want. But at the heart of this business civilization is a "hollowness"—everything is evaluated in money terms. "Or consider advertising, perhaps the most value-destroying activity of a business civilization." That hollowness is further emphasized by the low estimation business places on the value of work, which it sees as a means to an end—not the true end in itself for that is profit, income, economic growth. Nor is industrial socialism immune to this outlook, for its roots lie "in machine process and worship of efficiency." Under a business
culture[civilization as Heilbroner puts it sharply] . Stuffed into the dustbin of history would be[the values] of output are celebrated and those of input merely calculated."
Then there is a totally different sort of reference to a Victor Lebow. This is about a 1942 Wichita Kansas East High graduate who was part of a fantasy Martian Empire that was created in 1937, by the website owner's older brother.
My brother James was 13, and in the eighth grade at Robinson Junior High School in Wichita, Kansas. And in his mind he was fashioning a cosmic empire filled with strange and wonderful creatures and races — in which a stalwart group of Exiles from the planet Mars were the chief actors and heroes.
This Empire, the Martian Empire, eventually spread over most of the known Universe before it finally faded around 1948. During the eleven years it flourished, however, the Martian Epic became very elaborate — covering some 15 billion years of Martian history — and Martian technology, manners and morals, art, music, religion, language and literature. And it generated a narrative Epic that encompassed many galaxies.
Among the members of this empire he identifies Victor Lebow and includes a picture.
Victor Lebow: At East High: he was usually on the Honor Roll, was a member of the Nationally Honor Society, and a semi-finalist for the Summerfield Scholarship. At WU: he belonged to the Independent Students’ Association and Aesculapius.
I emailed Lee Streiff, the website owner, but the email came back undeliverable. [later: I guess that's because of this:
Thornton Lee Streiff, 72, died Sunday, August 1, 2004 in Wichita, KS. No service was held.]
This Victor Lebow graduated high school in 1942 and it is unlikely he would have authored an article in a business journal in 1944. He could be the author of the 1972 book on Free Enterprise. And the Lebow quoted in the Manas article above. But the Manas quote echoes thoughts from the original quote. It's probably a different Victor Lebow.
Meanwhile here are the bad copies of the original 1955 article that the quote comes from. The famous quotation comes from page 7, right column. There is a chunk that was skipped over, but it really doesn't change the tenor of the quote. But I saved these as high res photos so you should be able to click them and get them in readable = not good, but readable - size.
[Jan. 7, 2008 - Thanks to Nathan, one of the commenters on this post, I now have an account at scribn.com where you can park word, pdf., and other files. So I cleaned up these photos and saved them as a pdf. file. You can enlarge the document in the window or even download it. This should make reading it easier. I'll leave one or two of the old pages up so you can see the difference. It's on p. 5-10 in the journal, then skips to 42, then a part of page 44. The oft quoted part is on p. 7.]