The Age of the Floss Dispenser

In an essay titled “The Tyranny of Small Decisions,” none other than Alfred E. Kahn once noted that

[m]onopoly elements may cause the buyer to be presented with excessively narrow choices that do not correctly reflect that actual costs of the competing alternatives; and the result may be an uneconomic spiral of product quality changes over time [and] so-called ‘product inflation.’

In order to keep the money flowing, in other words, big business interests “may” use their clout to ignore and suppress achingly obvious macro-choices, while pushing increasingly trivial micro-choices.

Behold, then, this:

That, friends, is one of our glorious economic system’s newest offerings. It is a $20 dental floss dispenser.

Nuff said.

Life Under Market Totalitarianism

cartoon of consumer trap

Corporate capitalism is totalitarian. By its very nature, it drives its constituent organizations and primary beneficiaries to pursue activities that, without being centrally planned, lead, in the aggregate, to increasing, increasingly effective rentier-class dictation of both the flow and the details of all three spheres of modern life (paid labor, personal life, and politics).

This was one of the main points made in The Consumer Trap book, published way back in 2003.

Both that book and the point about market totalitarianism have gone over like a lead balloon, of course.

Sociology, the incubator and natural home to such ideas, remains generally dominated by pseudo-empiricism and specifically — on the subject of power and personal life — intoxicated with its “consumption studies” snipe hunt.

Marxian thought, meanwhile, barely exists any more, and, to the extent it does, remains as prone as ever to favoring arcane and/or insane mastications of “what Marx said” over investigation of new ideas and perspectives, no matter how huge and overdue and unfathomed in 1867.

In any event, the fact remains that corporate capitalism yields market totalitarianism, and this process could and should be carefully explored and explained, with an eye to transcending it.

Toward this end, TCT would like to mention this short essay in The Atlantic. Its author, Judith Shulevitz, is onto something. In its own rambling, shambling, yet exactingly micro-planned way, our prevailing social order is doing to the fabric of social life what state totalitarians did in different, cruder ways:

It’s a cliché among political philosophers that if you want to create the conditions for tyranny, you sever the bonds of intimate relationships and local community. “Totalitarian movements are mass organizations of atomized, isolated individuals,” Hannah Arendt famously wrote in The Origins of Totalitarianism. She focused on the role of terror in breaking down social and family ties in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union under Stalin. But we don’t need a secret police to turn us into atomized, isolated souls. All it takes is for us to stand by while unbridled capitalism rips apart the temporal preserves that used to let us cultivate the seeds of civil society and nurture the sadly fragile shoots of affection, affinity, and solidarity.

Shitty Deal

Here at TCT, we of course delight in delivering all the great news about how corporate capitalism keeps winning the day by deploying its special, unimproveable innovation techniques to solve humanity’s most pressing problems.

New and better methods of butt-wiping, as you surely know without being told, is way high on the list of things people want and need in this, the year of our lord 2018.

So, let the rejoicing continue! The Procter & Gamble conglomerate, by working, as always, “to sustain the ongoing health, viability and sustainability of the Corporation,” has now achieved the breakthrough required to bring us the Charmin Forever Roll!

charmin ad image

One less hassle!  You’ll love not having to constantly change the toilet paper!

Indeed, who hasn’t lost sleep over that?  Oh, the waste! The pathos! The squandering of human hours! Tell us, dear readers, all the wondrous things you’ll do, now that you are free from the oppression of changing your TP…

Meanwhile, of course, there is the actual plan and purpose: P&G’s never-ending battle “to fuel investments and margin” while “driving…increased consumption.”

The new Forever Roll, you see, is a clever repackaging of Charmin Ultra Soft toilet paper.  Walmart sells various quantities of the conventional format of that long-running P&G product for 4.0 cents per square foot.

The Forever Roll, meanwhile, sells — apparently only directly from P&G — at $9.99 for 185 square feet and $5.99 for 92 square feet.

That works out to 5.4 and 6.5 cents per square foot, respectively — price increases per unit of 35 and 63 percent.

In order to achieve such wonders, P&G undoubtedly conducted many millions of dollars’ worth of marketing studies, to explore how to profitably insert this trope into people’s lives.

Such, dear friends, is the baseline stuff, the (pun intended) bottom line, of our socio-economic order.

Our grandchildren, should we somehow manage to pass them a world capable of remembering such astounding institutional facts, will be amazed and disgusted by what we did to them — and ourselves.

The Scourge of Hyperhidrosis

carpe lotion ad image Sweaty hands: Where would anybody sane rank this on the list of humanity’s current problems? What does the fact that new, heavily promoted package goods to combat sweaty hands are now much more on the agenda than, say, serious ecological reforms imply about corporate capitalism and its highly engineered socio-cultural order?

The new product that prompts this question is Carpe Hand Anti-Perspirant, which, if one is gullible enough to believe the public story of the stuff’s inventors, was created because people urgently needed it:

For years, hyperhidrosis treatment required multiple visits to a doctor or dermatologist. Individuals often had little choice but to dedicate ample amounts of time and money to hyperhidrosis treatment at a medical facility.

Ever the heroes, our valiant entrepreneurs — TRIGGER WARNING: the story involves graphic tales of “a lot of people were wiping their palms on their clothes” — knew of this crisis and pursued a solution:

However, an increased focus in hyperhidrosis research and product development has produced methods to treat hyperhidrosis in the comfort of your own home.

The research that led to this wondrous breakthrough? Turns out, it is organized by an MBA, and takes surveys of its own conference attendees to document the disease to which it claims to be responding.

As Preacher Daniel told the folks in Matewan, draw your own conclusions.

Car in the Fridge, Fridge in the Car

Joe Strummer foresaw it. Automobiles are not just core vehicles of hyper-commodification/waste, but are themselves sites of selling and commercial indoctrination.

This is a photo of the arrival of the further commercialization and commodification of the experience of riding in cars, to wit, the arrival of Cargo-in-Uber:

food-in-uber

Now, if they can just figure out how to get robots to drive…