Dangerously lazy thinking pervades what passes for green politics. Consider the stunning fact that activists leaping straight from worry for their children to “doing something” are about to kill off Portland, Oregon’s lone glass recycling facility, thereby ensuring that whatever glass continues to get used there will be trucked or railroaded to far-off plants. All because the leaders in involved can’t be troubled to think beyond their first reactions.
As TCT readers will know, we here have long tried to convince people that one important taproot of such pratfalling is the continuing replication of stories about “consumerism” and “consumer culture.”
A recent major interation of this awful trope comes courtesy of no less august an entity than the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In “A Brief History of Consumer Culture,” Kerryn Higgs advances the hypothesis that “[o]ver the course of the 20th century, capitalism preserved its momentum by molding the ordinary person into a consumer with an unquenchable thirst for more stuff.”
There are many things to be said about the dense skein of errors in this little essay.
One point, however, seems most important: Higgs provides no empirical evidence to substantiate her interpretation.
Are ordinary people heedless greed monsters? That’s a rather gigantic claim. Higgs says it is true, and expects us to agree. But she provides not an iota of support for the assertion. No pertinent data of any kind.
And what of capitalism, the force Higgs says unleashed our inner greed monster. How did/does that happen? Higgs refers to various tertiary speculations, yet fails to a single word about the multi-trillion-dollar-a-year branch of big business behavior-management known as “marketing.” Literally, she doesn’t so much as mention it.
This, in a book from MIT, printed in the year 2016.
The upshot of the whole familiar mess is, as always, the rather conventional message that, marketing and corporate power notwithstanding, we have met the enemy is it is us, all of us, co-equally.
With friends like these, who needs enemies?