Abstract: The End of Social Responsibility: Mr. Cube and of the Place of Business and Marketing in British Postwar Society

David J. Clampin and Ron Noon


This paper offers a case study in both the history of British commercial marketing and the inter-relationship between business and politics via an examination of the postwar Labour government's stated intention to nationalize sugar refining in 1949. In response to this decision, taken by a freely elected government, the British sugar refining giant, Tate & Lyle, adopted an intense marketing campaign with a view to "informing" the public in the hope that they might choose to stand up to the state. In so doing, the marketing industry was inextricably drawn into politics and, it is argued, for the first time adopted an ostensibly party political stance that stands in contrast to their earlier more circumspect approach and their adherence to the basic ideal of "social responsibility." By focusing on this cause in the brief period 1949-1952, I explore a key moment in British marketing history and the contested role of marketing in modern society.