Posts Tagged ‘readings’

Hi All,

One of you sent me an email asking about the Marx reading and it’s inherent impenetrability. This was my answer, as I thought it might be useful:

I’m not surprised you found it difficult–I find it difficult. It is a very dense piece of economic theory. It is useful for us to read it because of the number of other readings we will have that refer to it, but that doesn’t mean we are going to get it in one go. But yes we will spend the class unpacking it. As with many conceptual things, it can often help to turn to secondary sources. The main take-away concept for this reading is the idea of ‘commodity fetishism’; if you google this term you will find an array of discussions about it (some still quite dense, and some that probably contradict each other) but if you start from shorter definitions, you can start to build up a picture. And don’t worry if it is a slow process, it is for everyone.

If you have questions or thoughts about the reading, please feel free to post them as comments here. Questions in particular will help me sort out what I should focus on in the lecture.

Also, I notice that some of you are using tags in the blog. Great! This is something I forgot to mention, but a great way to keep our discussions organized. I have added a Tag Cloud to the sidebar that will grow as we add tags.

After reading the introduction to A Consumer Society, the section that struck me most was the one that briefly describes alternatives to a consumer society. A few different strategies are mentioned in this section including Elgin’s strategy which is a simply “just say no” attitude to consumerism. Another strategy expressed by Lasn encourages “culture jammers,” which is basically the use of “sub-vertising, de-marketing, and the un-cooling of everything from fashion to fast food to auto transport. The final alternative supports an environmental perspective as it focuses on the amount of natural resources that we devastate and consume.

In my own view I don’t believe that there are any alternatives to a consumer society, even after reading the examples in the text. As mentioned by Collin, I also believe that almost all of our activities are commodified in one way or another. I would go even further to stress this fact as it does not only apply to facebook, or the latest phone craze. If we go back to Wednesday’s lecture and recall the Professors words we can see that commodities surround our everyday habits, such as sleep. In addition, the same circumstances surround camping. An activity that would normally be seen as an escape from a consumer society actually supports this idea of consumerism. From the tents we set up to the sleeping bags we sleep in all of this is part of a consumer society.

While we may be able to downshift what we buy, I do not believe that there is any way to escape from a consumer society.