The Crisis of Legitimacy and the Appropriation of Resistance in Capitalism

  • Jernej Amon Prodnik Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana
Keywords: capitalism, ideology, legitimacy, crisis of legitimacy, advertising, the spirit of capitalism, cool capitalism, resistance


Capitalism has become so naturalised in recent decades that there seems to exist little to no alternative to it. Common acceptance of this social formation begs the basic question of how particular systems are legitimised. In this paper, I look at some legitimation mechanisms at play by focusing on the capitalist tendency to ideologically appropriate criticism emerging from social struggles. I draw on the study The New Spirit of Capitalism by Boltanski and Chiapello and the cool capitalism thesis put forward by McGuigan. Both provide a basis for a case study of two advertising campaigns by Slovenia’s biggest mobile network operators. During the period of mass uprisings following the 2008/09 economic crisis, the two operators harnessed the symbolism of resistance in their advertising targeted at young people. In each case, the messages of the protests in the ads were deradicalised and largely stripped of any meaningful political content. While it is clear the advertising industry plays an important systemic role in capitalism, the two case studies hint at another way that advertisements can help perpetuate the system: by reinterpreting the critical messages emerging from within society, they become neutralised, with the critical voices thereby becoming more easily integrated into the capitalist social structure.

Author Biography

Jernej Amon Prodnik, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana

Researcher at the Social Communication Research Centre at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana. Postdoctoral researcher, Faculty of Social Sciences, Charles university in Prague.

Assistant professor, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana.