“Consumption” Politics is Annoying and Wrong

quixote TCT exists to publicize the true methods and consequences of big business marketing, which is corporate capitalism’s use of scientific management to control off-the-job behavior. Despite the importance of knowing how the overclass dictates the conditions and evolution of personal life, it does not follow that the proper answer to such dictatorship is an effort to politicize product-use in itself. In fact, such efforts always quickly reduce themselves to naive and paternalistic harangues for individuals to somehow use their “consumer” choices to alter the socio-economic system. “Shop your way to a decent society!” “Join/start a co-op!”

I mention all this because the profoundly annoying figure Annie Leonard is redoubling her deeply silly efforts.

TCT could expound on the fit between Ms. Leonard’s flimsy analyses and the cartoon format of their presentation, but will for now confine itself to remarking on this core Leonardian thesis:

You see, when it comes to our economy, most Americans also believe that more is always better.

Rubbish. Pure and complete rubbish. When has anybody anywhere ever asked a representative sample of Americans “Do you believe that more is always better?” The plain and simple answer is that nobody ever has. And, if they ever did, the question would undoubtedly draw a massive “No” answer, because very few people, even in this hugely indoctrinated nation-state, are banal enough to think quality doesn’t matter. Quite the contrary: Everybody but capitalists knows this very, very well.

And yet here we have Annie Leonard school-marming us on this totally fake (and insulting) point. To what end? Liberal university students eager to acquire an easy way of being “political,” perhaps? Certainly not Joe or Jane Sixpack, who would be rightly insulted by such pointless pandering, if they were ever to see it.

Our real problem is that popular desires for better, saner ways of living are simply ignored in our market totalitarian society. And, as Barry Commoner argued, “the only rational answer [to so-called “consumer” issues] is to change the way in which we do transportation, energy production, agriculture and a good deal of manufacturing. The problem originates in human activity in the form of the production of goods.” Politics, in other words, is about demanding and gaining control over macro-choices, not special-pleading over micro ones.

Please Login to comment
10 Comment threads
6 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
8 Comment authors
Yabba DabbaMartinMichael DawsonMSMarla Singer Recent comment authors

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Mark Lovas
Guest

Related questions: How many Americans actually think it is very expensive to own a car, and would gladly choose another option, if one were realistically available to them?

Will
Guest
Will

The first paragraph of this piece should be a part of an essay inside the “First Things” column on the side of the site. It’s a good high-level statement of the issues your site tackles.

Marla Singer
Guest
Marla Singer

Oof. Middle class soccer moms yapping about the importance of organic are much more difficult to endure than honestly selfish overclass assholes – at least they screw me over and leave me alone. But nooo, the middling and aspiring narcissists also need to make sure that they have sufficiently convincingly asserted their moral and intellectual superiority by informing me how much of an idiot I am for buying the regular ol’ produce, not the enlightened organic one.

High Arka
Guest

In the face of so much understanding of the inefficient horrors of their rule, elites have a built-in survival strategy using the counterattack momentum of an unskilled opponent: redirect reactionary force into the setup for the next phase. Ms. Leonard, here, is like a drunken brawler swinging madly forward, unaware that she’s about to do 60% of the work of sweeping her right onto her back on the mat, so the whole ground and pound can begin again.

Marla Singer
Guest
Marla Singer

RE: “treat TV commercials as reflections of public preferences, rather then vectors of propaganda”. It is shocking how true this is, but I’ve given up arguing – when you marshal the (admittedly limited) evidence such as public opinion polls over decades, you get met with blank stares and misguided lectures on the “limitations of the survey methodology”. Usually by the same people who “love science”, because “OMG data is awesome”. The sad part that date is not even necessary –> if people were naturally greedy, surely business would not have to undertake the enormous trillion dollar expenditures on marketing activities.… Read more »

Martin
Guest
Martin

Right on target, as usual, bringing back that edge to TCT. However, this anti-voluntary simplicity posture will cost you some readership in Academia USA. Every other tenured type is back to the land, recycle every rubber band, castigate the masses, look at me and my bike, read the classics until the eyes bleed, anhedonic, green veg localvore, on the take, folkish manque. The every other – the convenient foil, the bought and sold corporate rat, such as this clown: http://www.unh.edu/news/releases/2013/sep/lw17entitlement.cfm Also, The Fall of the Faculty, by Ben Ginsberg, has takes potshots at the silly ivory tower, which would be… Read more »

MS
Guest
MS

Lol, Martin, you need your own blog. So much snark should not go to waste! It is particularly important to note, forcefully, that is is precisely the uppity middle and upper middle class – i.e. the rich, that are the most zealous preachers of simplicity. You don’t see many (any) waitresses or janitors walking around preaching simplicity. Even worse, if you closely scrutinize the consumption behavior of the selfless middle class simplifiers, chances are you will be appalled at the waste. Here are at least three points they are oblivious to: 1) Framing the issue of patterns of consumption, by… Read more »

MS
Guest
MS

I suppose 3) was simply the much larger proportion of disposable income spent on non-essentials. When most of the spending happens in the top 20%, then by definition it is expended on non-essentials

Martin
Guest
Martin

I don’t know how TCT does it – so much fodder to choose from… There is a woman who writes in a barely-making-it free paper roundabouts who was profiled in another paper for her zero waste life – all the refuse of her adult life, she maintains, has fit into one garbage bag. Now there’s real fucking voluntary simplicity for you – uno garbabe bag, for life. That self-ennobling ascetism is bound to save the earth and its remaining creatures, oh yeah! What about you, o loyal readers of TCT/ What about Annie Leonard? I heard she threw away a… Read more »

Yabba Dabba
Guest
Yabba Dabba

I give you this gem of skillfully crapping on both the lower and the middle class, while bemoaning one’s belonging in the latter, while also demonstrating severe cognitive impairment: “I think I know why chick-fil-a’s super junky food is so popular among the middle- and upper middle-class. The key to the conundrum lies in their mockery of good spelling in those popular cow-featuring ads. Poor people don’t understand the humor of using bad spelling. Bad spelling is what they do for lack of good education, so they go to McDonalds where no one mocks them and actually recently tell them… Read more »