The Prejudice Against Marketing

JOURNAL OF MARKETING, Vol. 40, pp. 2-9, July 1976

8 Pages Posted: 26 May 2011

Date Written: July 1, 1976


Since the time of Plato and before society has honored those who build better mousetraps but suspected those who market mousetraps better. A utility, in classic economics is the ability to satisfy a human want. The territory of marketing encompasses 3 of the 4 utilities – time, place and possession that are performed by wholesale and retail establishment, transportation firms, advertising agencies and other service industries. Form utility, the 4th. utility, occurs in agriculture, extraction and manufacturing.

The prejudice against marketing denigrates the 3 marketing utilities and magnifies the importance of form utility. It rubs off against individuals engaged in marketing endeavors as less worthwhile than the honest farmer, the toiling production line worker and the bold captain of basic industry, Plato characterized a city of shopkeepers as "unfriendly and unfaithful" and scornfully assigns the tasks of storekeeper and salesmen to those who are "the weakest in bodily strength and therefore of little use for any other purpose." Aristotle ordered economic pursuits into a hierarchy of worthiness with the form utility occupations of agriculture and handicrafts at the top. All forms of trade are less desirable and retailing is unnatural and base.

By the fall of the Roman empire, it had been well established that farmers and craftsmen wee noble and strong and added utility while merchants were weak and slippery and marketing added costs but not value. Medieval writers also adopted these conclusions. So the anti-marketing bias found its way into both Marxist and mainstream western thinking, including the writings of Arnold Toynbee and Thorstein Veblen. The prejudice is clear in the British Labour Party’s Selective Employment Tax whose purpose was to drive workers from "unproductive" trade and service occupations to "productive" form utility jobs and in the early attempts of the Soviet Union to eliminate both wholesaling and advertising.

The balance of the article identifies the sources for the prejudice against marketing including the easier understanding of Form Utility Creation and the failure of economics to recognize the contributions of advertising and other non-form utility functions. A powerful additional cause has been the usefulness of the anti-marketing bias to justify anticompetitive restrictions against marketing practices that protected certain established business and professional groups. Since antiquity when the prejudice was first conscripted into the doctrinal service of the landed gentry, it has faithfully defended established elites against the latest crop of successful marketers.

Suggested Citation

Steiner, Robert Livingston, The Prejudice Against Marketing (July 1, 1976). JOURNAL OF MARKETING, Vol. 40, pp. 2-9, July 1976, Available at SSRN:

Robert Livingston Steiner (Contact Author)

Independent ( email )

Washington D.C

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