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:
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:
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.
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.