Consumerism is unlikely to be defeated; there will be no white knight, no Saint George to slay the dragon and pitch its corpse into the center of the earth for fifty generations. Consumerism is a product of consumer behavior and is deeply embedded in our communal lives, in fact is an essential ingredient in our communal experience, something that has always been there but becomes more transparent and evident in a more affluent society, one to which despite protestations and the cult of sentimentality, we have no desire to return to the world of our ancestors hewing wood , hauling water and chewing on bark and shrubs.
Which is more ridiculous? Kurt Cobain on the cover of Rolling Stone, wearing a T-shirt that says ‘Corporate magazines still suck’, or Alexander McQueen, the ultimate sartorial ‘subversive’, becoming chief designer at the House of Givenchy? Is it possible to interpret these events as evidence that ‘the system’ is able to co-opt dissent? No. What it really shows is just that dissent is the system. Capitalism simply does not require hierarchy or cultural hegemony in order to function smoothly. Read More:http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~jheath/hip%20consumerism.pdf
The idea of a them and us is merely a convenient distinction, like the gender divide, it is exaggerated and commodified, an artificial construction that goes back to the counterculture “brand” that has been nurtured at least since Baudelaire and received a boost with the marquee performance of Rimbaud. And much of this product of our fictive imagination is simply a pretense, a pose, an absurd convenience that feeds the need for disavowal where we can harp and holler yet enjoy that which we rail against on the sly.
But, is this beast of consumerism, of pop culture tameable, given that it is integral to the identity of so many? Is there an alternative to the market society, or should we just be content to perfect it and not abolish it; pacifying it with more legislation, oversight, regulation and penalties, little Tobin taxes on buying sin with Sisyphus carrying the ideal market, the utopian ideal of consumerism to the top of the heap, even if it is a scrap heap.
It seems apparent that dissent is more profound and variegated than its stereotypical role as fashion accessory to market economies. More potentially radical than the adhesive and gauze or even duct tape of interventionism which reinforces the status quo in its own idiosyncratic way.
The authors point out that countercultural rebellion in many cases collapses the distinction between dissent and deviance, saying that “dissent is like civil disobedience. It occurs when people… have a genuine… objection to the specific content of the prevailing set of rules. They disobey despite the consequences that these actions may incur. Deviance, on the other hand, occurs when people disobey the rules for self-interested reasons”. Counterculture is accused of rejecting a whole number of practical solutions to real problems because these solutions would entail new rules, and rules are bad in and of themselves.
Even more amusing is the attack on the anti-consumerism of counterculture and the rejection of ‘mainstream’ styles, music, food, etc. The authors point out that “the counterculture was, from its very inception, intensely entrepreneurial. It reflected… the most authentic spirit of capitalism”. In other words, if you reject Nike footwear you create a market for ‘alternative footwear’. Brands such as Vans and Airwalk are mentioned as multimillion-dollar examples. The authors point out that it is the quest for distinction not conformity th
rives consumer capitalism, with new desires constantly emerging and the need for a rapid turnover of styles and fads. What is counterculture about if not seeking such distinction? It turns out that it is specific consumer tastes rather than consumerism per se that countercultural rebels object to. Read More:http://www.socialismtoday.org/121/sell.html