My initial research specialty was ancient Greek philosophy. I was particularly interested in their fascination with rhetoric and the role of language in how we come to understand ourselves and our worlds.
That research focused upon what are called the Pre-Socratic philosophers and their particularly enigmatic use of language to generate a way of questioning we now call philosophy.
Eventually, that interest led to an examination of the role of rhetoric in contemporary consumer culture, particularly in the use of explicitly moralist rhetoric in marketing and journalism. Mass media voices have become our primary cultural storytellers. As sources, or at least mirrors, of our dominant stories about ourselves and the world, they narrate and shape, often in explicitly moralistic terms, our possibilities of identity and obligation. My research explores not only how the use of explicitly moralistic language inflects our sense of morality, but, more interestingly, what our cultural sense of morality must already in some sense be in order to be used to sell things without generating much if any dissonance.
The first publication of this research was a chapter in the book Advertising and Reality (Continuum Press, 2012).
A book, Mass Moralizing: Marketing and Moral Storytelling, is under contract with Lexington Press to be released in 2015. In this chapter of the book, I examine the interplay of moralistic marketing narrative and our sense of moral possibility and even moral activism at work in such social entrepreneur brands as TOMS, Dove, and FEED Projects.