Evidence That “Consumerism” Is Not Our Problem

Richard Eckersley is a very skilled and important researcher into the details of how our world actually works.

Among the topics Eckersley investigates is the question of what the mass of people actually like, want, prefer, and worry about, and whether (or not) and how (or how not) our dominant institutions care about and encasulate those actual desires.

Here is what Eckersley reports about the increasing advocacy of well-being indexes as a replacement for, or accompaniment to, GDP statistics. Such nice ideas, Eckersley suggests, do not go far enough:

Public perceptions of the future have been another dimension of my research. And I am not aware of any progress indicators that reflect the depth of people’s concern (which existed well before climate change gave it a tangible focus).

Richard Eckersley

Ordinary people, in other words, are far more worried about the future and desirous of macro-alternatives than any “happiness indicator” scales show. If, of course, one bothers to actually look.

That, alas, remains something very few thinkers, including the purported mavens of green consciousness, do.

Instead, among such would-be leaders, the phantasm of “consumerism” continues to trample this whole field of reality into a plane of hopeless hallucinatory mush.

TCT will say it again: “Consumer” analysis is barking up the wrong tree. The masses are already way more complex and thoughtful and open to hearing the news than their would-be saviors bother to know.

It is beyond high time for the arrival of an empirical perspective on off-the-job life in the modern world.

Question

If you were trying to explain slavery, how much emphasis would you put on “slavism” or “slavishness” as one of its causes? Not much, right?

Why, then, does virtually every person trying to explain the market-totalitarian corporate capitalist promotion of unsustainable material waste in the spheres of product design and product usage attribute that reality to “consumerism”?

It is pathetic, and carries the whiff of liberal practicality, too.

Commodifier of the Year

Procter & Gamble, the world’s 53rd largest publicly-traded business corporation, has been named Advertising Age‘s Marketer of the Year for 2019.

According to Ad Age, P & G has re-dedicated itself to out-marketing its competitors. As a result of its search for “work that has more impact,” “P&G has,” Ad Age reports, “gained share in most businesses this year, posting 7 percent organic sales growth the past two quarters.” This “rarity for any big company” has pushed P & G’s “stock price up more than 30 percent this year and 65 percent from recent lows in May 2018.”

Okay, but what is the material basis for such stellar work on behalf of shareholders?

Things like this:

That is new Downy Unstopables, which is apparently perfume you add to your laundry.

The logic of such a breakthrough is reported, with TCT’s emphasis added, by Ad Age as follows:

Such ads, which aim to encourage consumers to use products more often and successfully, are part of an effort…to focus less on taking share from rivals and more on growing or creating categories. 

One example is Downy Unstopables scent beads, a business with more than $750 million in global sales that’s moving the brand from fabric softening to adding lasting fragrance to clothes.

No word, of course, on what happens to all those new plastic bottles.

Victoria’s Demise

Despite the unrelenting flood of elite-sponsored nationalism, militarism, and commercialism, many areas of on-the-ground American culture have been improving rapidly. Sexism, despite setbacks like the Madonnian faux feminism that took hold in the 1980s and continues to work its evil ways, is one of the great social sins we the people have been chipping away at, despite our confounding institutional order.

TCT mentions this because there is important news on this happy front: Victoria’s Secret, the corporate lingerie pusher that has always sold its wares via dangerous sexist “aspirational” images, seems to be dying. In the climate that now seems to be solidifying, VS can apparently no longer run its hateful “fashion shows.”

According to Advertising Age:

It’s official now: There will not be a Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show this year. At a time when many other lingerie brands (like Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty) are celebrating real women’s bodies, some consumers found Victoria’s Secret’s display of thin models strutting in lingerie and stilettos to be backwards and off-putting.

TCT looks forward to the day when we no longer let people call us “consumers,” a label that only a capitalist should ever embrace. But, meanwhile, it remains important to count our wins, along with our struggles and losses.

The Engine of Idiocracy

tv idiocy

Here is an unsurprising headline:

Netflix is making a fourth ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ movie

Despite its superior emotional power – i.e., the main reason for its current ascendancy – video, as a medium, is quite narrow, as it lacks the capacity to bear much nuance and variation, compared with print and live interaction.

Add to this generic defect the fact that corporate capitalism imposes strict filters on media content, not the least of which is the crowding-out effect produced by its relentless multi-trillion-dollar flood of very pointed marketing-based sponsorship.

The overall result is a media ecology with an outflow every bit as shrunken and predictable as was that of the terrible old Socialist 1.x regimes.

It is pathetic, if not tragic — and also, of course, entirely undiscussed.

Deep or Shallow?

The Post Carbon Institute fancies itself a bearer of the last word on eco-social thought and organizing. Under its banner, it charges money for online courses that promise to “[d]eepen your understanding of the interactions between human and Earth systems” and to thereby teach you what it is that is to be done.

Alas, here is how the course frames the human core of the problem we face:

Society’s goals and mindsets could be thought of as the stories we tell ourselves.

Consumerism is a modern version of our biological drives for status-seeking and novelty-seeking, and makes use of how our brain chemistry develops addictions.

Stories? Stories we tell ourselves? Because of our biological drives?

In reality, “consumerism” is probably not a thing at all, certainly not a well-defined or seriously documented thing, and is also definitely not reducible to individual addiction.

Meanwhile, where are the institutions in all this? “Stories we tell ourselves?” Really?