AbstractThis essay uses the historian Kenneth Lipartito’s framework for treating firms as cultural actors to argue that the Enron Corporation attempted to achieve specific political and economic goals through its engagement with culture in the United States. In the 1980s amid concerns in the United States over environmental catastrophe, Enron Corp. presented itself as an environmentally sensitive company in its marketing literature. However, as these fears subsided during the 1990s, Enron lost its focus on the environmental benefits of natural gas, and began to promote ambiguous and ill-defined ideals, such as “innovation” in its marketing efforts. I chart the company’s drastic transformation in the 1990s as the business model CEO Jeff Skilling introduced meant that Enron would begin to resemble a financial services company in its business practices and internal corporate identity. However, I focus not on the practices themselves, but the ways in which the company represented these changes in its corporate rhetoric, identity, advertising and marketing literature. For years, Enron and its executives struggled to find an adequate way of representing its increasingly immaterial business practices to a wider public of investors, consumers and the press. I argue that the company’s newer businesses presented the same issues of representation that scholars such as David Harvey and Frederic Jameson see as symptomatic of late capitalism. Enron’s problem was partially alleviated with the appearance of the “new economy” in the late 1990s. This development provided Enron with the rhetorical and symbolic tools to represent and communicate its newer businesses as well as to celebrate and promote some of the political, economic and cultural aspects of late capitalism. What is more, throughout this process, the company abandoned an earlier commitment to environmental sensitivity. In doing so, Enron’s marketing efforts were cultural iterations of a neoliberal political economic ideology.
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