CMNS 110 Chapter Notes -Consumerism, Business Cycle, Mass Society

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Published on 17 Apr 2013
School
Simon Fraser University
Department
Communication
Course
CMNS 110
I Hate Myself and Want to Buy
anti-consumerism is one of the most important cultural forces in millennial North American life, across every
class and demographic
how can we all denounce consumerism yet still find ourselves living in a consumer society?
o we don’t actually critique consumerism; its a restatement of the critique of mass society
the critique of mass society has been one of the most powerful forces driving consumerism for
the past 40 years
anti-consumerism doesn’t undermine consumerism; they reinforce it
they’ve failed to understand the true nature of consumer society
o identify consumerism with conformity
o fail to notice that it is rebellion, not conformity, that has been the driving force of the marketplace
counter-culture theorists like to think that their rebellion is a reaction to the evils of consumer society
o what if counterculture rebellion was a contributing factor?
people in wealthy industrialized society are on average happier than poor ones
o greater wealth comes a greater ability to meet needs and desires
economic development has been shown to generate a steady increase in average happiness levels, but after a
certain level of development has been reached the effects disappear completely
the middle class continue to feel squeezed economically
o people are working harder, under more stress, less free time
some people question the value of economic growth altogether
o serious sacrifices in order to keep a high growth rate
o but growth isn’t making us happier
people spend their money on private consumption goods
o something pathological about consumption habits
o obsessed with acquiring more even though this leads to unreasonable sacrifices
is social criticism really a criticism or rather a piece of modern mythology
most adults like spending their money on things that help them stand out
o goods that offer distinction
competitive consumption that creates the problem, not conformity
o the desire to conform fails to explain the compulsive character of consumer behaviour
its the non-conformists not the conformists that drive consumer spending
why modern consumer society fails to produce any happiness is because the needs that it satisfies are simply a
function (induced by the individual) by the internal logic of the system
o there are only needs because the system needs them
who is to say what is useful and what is not, which needs are genuine and which are false?
o simply saying that all needs are ideological doesn’t help
intellectuals have a natural bias against consumer goods in general because they are people that are more
engaged and stimulated by ideas rather than goods
consumerism always seems to be a critique of what other people buy
o difficult to avoid impression the critique isn’t just snobbery
o traditionally rich are self sufficient in material needs and the material world is regarded as a realm of
corruption and sin
according to Marx, capitalism suffers from periodic crises of overproduction
o the factory owner constantly tries to lower prices by introducing techniques of mass production
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Document Summary

Anti-consumerism is one of the most important cultural forces in millennial north american life, across every class and demographic. People in wealthy industrialized society are on average happier than poor ones: greater wealth comes a greater ability to meet needs and desires. People spend their money on private consumption goods: something pathological about consumption habits, obsessed with acquiring more even though this leads to unreasonable sacrifices is social criticism really a criticism or rather a piece of modern mythology. Marx thought that the tendency toward overproduction was responsible for the business cycle: after the second world war though there was almost two decades of uninterrupted growth. One answer is the advertising was introduced to solve the problem of overproduction transform the worker into a consumer. Non standard acts of consumption come to be seen as politically radical the rebel consumer. When money is introduced to an economy things become more complicated.

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