Apart from providing invaluable, presumably at least partly unintended assistance to the overclass by helping legitimize the catastrophic “vocabulary of consumption” as the prevailing way of describing issues of product design and product use, Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, has a long history of getting weaker and worse at pursuing its own mission. The accommodationist process is approaching its logical end. Having long ago chosen to refrain from investigating and reporting on issues of political economy and product policy, Consumer Reports now faces competition from other mere product review enterprises. In reply, what is Consumers Union doing? Why, capitulating further, of course. It has just now created the first-ever marketing campaign on behalf of the “Consumer Reports” brand name.
When one edits a blog on cars-first transportation and a blog on market totalitarianism, news such as this poses the question of where to comment. Since marketing and market totalitarianism are the bigger, deeper phenomenon, I choose TCT.
So, corporations are now promoting “smart” appliances. The motive, of course, is further increase in big business marketing capacities, which are thoroughly totalitarian.
The other factor here, as is the case with the corporate command over paid labor processes, is the question of skills. At this late stage of corporate capitalism, the overclass stands so confident and unchallenged, they don’t even feel much need to euphemize about this. Witness Alexa Skills, which shamelessly names the process of alienating, commercializing, and commodifying human abilities.
If you think this doesn’t matter because each individual skill transfer is trivial, recall the piranha effect. Then, ask yourself: How many phone numbers do you know these days? Where did that form of mental acuity go?
‘Tis once again the season of peak selling, so a roving TCTer’s thoughts naturally turn to the topic of how, even as their socio-economic order finishes devouring the basis for the further maturation of human society, corporate capitalists continue to provide solutions to non-problems.
Now, so far, the system’s critics have been rather less than careful with the topic of product provision and use, having committed to treating it as “consumption” and then swinging various crude hammers pointlessly around the room. Herbert Marcuse, foreshadowing if not script-writing for Ronald Reagan, based his work on the presumption that average black people in the Jim Crow United States had Cadillacs. Such things not only flew with the left but became classics of supposedly critical theory.
Mainstream critics of leftist cultural critics are, sadly, largely correct when they say the left has tended to be way too cavalier about the existence of great capitalist products. This is funny (in both senses) in part because Marx and Engels famously praised some features of capitalism. Yet few subsequent thinkers in the Marxian tradition have thought with precision about the indisputable and extremely important fact that a great many of the products business society has managed to work out and make affordable are things any sane democracy would want to retain in any decent, sustainable future.
The fact that the system also is quite good at turning broad public scientific breakthroughs (for which it then takes undeserved credit, of course) into actual gadgets is nothing to sneeze at, either, if we want to make such a future.
But, having said all this, it remains true that corporate capitalism is, by its core design, drowning us in silly-ass, often hi-tech, crapola.
Once TCT‘s editor finishes his ongoing book about the ultimate platform for this systemic project, our TCT website will get an overdue structural upgrade and thereby return to seeking user interactivity. One thing we’ll work on then is gathering nominees not only for the annual Golden Hicksie, but also a reader-fueled competition for most offensive new commodity of whatever years we have left.
Perhaps, inspired by this here new product, which I encountered yesterday, we will call that new award the Consumer Trap Turkey of the Year:
That, friends, is the Waring electric turkey fryer. It retails for more than $600. One would love to know how many times each one sold will ever be used. Surely, the ever-so-perfectly-named Conair Corporation knows. It is the entity that puts this beautifully stupid thing on the market.
Matt Richtel is a great journalist, and some kudos go to the NYT for retaining him.
Today’s story from Richtel and co-author Andrew Jacobs is about how, in order to satisfy their shareholders, corporate capitalists are pushing junk food onto the Third World. It is well worth the read, and includes the story of how Nestle hires women to visit poor households in Brazil with snack items right after their meager welfare checks arrive.
For those of us keeping track of our system’s inexorable commodification of human life, here is a representative and telling behind-the-scenes* quote from the Jacobs and Richtel report:
Ahmet Bozer, president of Coca-Cola International, described [his firm’s commodification efforts] to investors in 2014. “Half the world’s population has not had a Coke in the last 30 days,” he said. “There’s 600 million teenagers who have not had a Coke in the last week. So the opportunity for that is huge.”
*Behind-the-scenes not because it was made in a secret forum, but because our corporate media almost never report such items, despite their institutional centrality and cultural importance.
Great news! For the low, low price of only $128, you could purchase this desperately needed corporate product. Yes, these are — in the phrasing of the corporate maker — “anti-ball crushing” pants! At last!
This begs the question of which is more telling and hilarious: 1) the claim that pants, in themselves, have ever harmed or even mildly disturbed anybody’s testes, or 2) the product’s pre-literate promise to crush anti-ball.
Either way, such is the stuff of late corporate capitalism. As burnt forest falls from the sky, the only problems getting solved are the shareholders’ pending quarterly claims.
Not, of course, that the corporate marketers will ever admit this. Consider this shameless lie from Lululemon, the wondrous seller of ABC Pants:
Why We Made This
You’ve got room to move in these quick-drying, four-way stretch pants.
If you believe that, I can also get you a great deal on a bridge in Brooklyn. LULU “made this” because, like all big businesses, it desperately needs to find new ways to commodify human perceptions and activities — i.e., to create phony needs.