Dixon recently commented that 50 years ago “marketing management and planning was part of marketing theory, today it seems to be all there is.” There is now a growing fragmentation of marketing thought, and a lack of marketing relevance to critical social and economic questions, that is of increasing concern to both internal and external critics. The purpose of this paper is to explore briefly the evolution of marketing thought over the last 100 years and to suggest a better response to the critics.
The paper comprises an historical review of the development of marketing as a discipline that could lead to a reconceptualization of the field.
Adam Smith emphasised both scale and diversity in markets. However, it was the economics of scale that caught the attention of economists and then of marketing specialists. This incomplete view of Smith limited the scope of marketing thought to single or related products. However, Smith's emphasis on diversity leads, logically and inevitably, to the development of the concept of a marketing system. A set of propositions are then suggested that lead to a generalised theory of marketing based on the marketing system concept.
This approach holds promise of resolving the concerns of both the internal and external critics of marketing, opening the door to a fresh, relevant interpretation of marketing thought that might address the concerns expressed by Dixon.
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