This thesis explores advertising as a ‘soft’ mode of governance understood in terms of a form of power which avoids instruments of coercion, involving instead certain practices of freedom and forms of pleasure. The main concern of the thesis is to analyse the mechanisms through which techniques of such ‘modest’ power interact with techniques of representation in order to define forms of femininity and shape self-fashioning practices of female consumers. The study is based on a comprehensive survey of a sample of television advertisements broadcast in Britain on three television channels with national coverage in May 2001 as well as on the analysis of a selected body of advertising trade literature. It draws on theoretical and methodological approaches from social anthropology and various strands of cultural studies. The thesis reveals that the way advertising attempts to influence consumers is in line with some aspects of neo-liberal style of governance. It argues that such a mode of governance seeks to regulate women’s ethical sensibilities by outlining the space of desire, power and pleasure, by stimulating the will for self-improvement and by providing advice about how women should think of and shape themselves
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