Commerce and Communication

64 Pages Posted: 11 May 2016

See all articles by Ronald K. L. Collins

Ronald K. L. Collins

University of Washington - School of Law

David Skover

Seattle University School of Law

Date Written: March 1, 1993


To comprehend more fully the phenomenon of commercial speech, we must look beyond First Amendment cases and commentary to the actual ways in which our culture communicates about and through commodities. To this end, we start from the beginning. Part I presents an account of the commercial message-making industry and the culture of modern mass advertising. We mark the movement from the product-information format that typified early mass advertising to the "lifestyle" format more in vogue today. We then examine the processes and consequences of modern mass advertising and contrast these to a model that we label "classified communication." Part II discusses two key free speech values — rationality and individuality — as they are reconfigured in the new ages of "reason" and "self." Finally, Part III explores free speech options in our capitalistic system and argues that, in much of our culture, image is all, truth is irrelevant, there is no right to know, and we are as we consume. Against this backdrop, if modern commercial expression is to be constitutionally protected in a more honest way, it is primarily because it is speech in the service of selling. What this portends for the individual and the culture, and for the defenders and critics of commercial speech, is the subject of all that follows.

Four responses (by five scholars) were published with this essay. We have attached our reply ("The Psychology of First Amendment Scholarship: A Reply") to the main essay in a single PDF.

Keywords: advertising, commercial speech, expression, first amendment

Suggested Citation

Collins, Ronald K. L. and Skover, David, Commerce and Communication (March 1, 1993). Texas Law Review, Vol. 71, No. 4, pp. 697-746 and 819-32, March 1993, Available at SSRN:

Ronald K. L. Collins (Contact Author)

University of Washington - School of Law ( email )

William H. Gates Hall
Box 353020
Seattle, WA 98105-3020
United States

David Skover

Seattle University School of Law ( email )

901 12th Avenue, Sullivan Hall
P.O. Box 222000
Seattle, WA n/a 98122-1090
United States

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