Still No Such Thing as “Consumer Culture”

house built on sandOrdinary people — not even “middle class” Americans — did not spontaneously demand the material infrastructure that is, as it continues to enrich its primary beneficiaries and true designers, presently killing the human biosphere.  They just did not.  Acceptance and adaptation are not the same thing as invention, design, and promotion.

Nonetheless, the harebrained concept of “consumer culture” still easily addles the minds of those who claim to want to demystify and rescue the world.  Consider, for instance, this august statement.  Every single work cited there is a positive offense to the cause of rational explication of pertinent relationships and processes.

To say it again, here’s why:  “Consumer culture,” as a concept, is irretrievably terrible at both ends.

Ordinary people are product-users, not consumers. The destruction of goods and services — “consumption” — is neither our intended purpose nor something that is in our interest.  Eliding this point is eliding a huge swath of reality.

Meanwhile, saying our problem is “culture” implies that pre-existing popular desire usually draws forth capitalist planning and investment, rather than the reverse.

Although it is anathema to say so, the simple fact is that, in the making of the modern material world, right from the start of the corporate epoch, capitalist planning has consistently, easily, and probably (given the stakes and we-should-know-better-now factor) increasingly dominated popular desire.

It has really been no contest, if you attend to the actual evidence.  And, despite American Exceptionalism’s continuing “bi-partisan” promotion, elite domination of product-usage has been most pronounced in the United States.  You could look it up (though doing so would take great effort, given the almost complete inattention to the issue even among our critics).

Luke Wilson Sells Oligopoly Toothpaste

Luke Wilson image Actor Luke Wilson has an estimated net worth of $30 million. Nevertheless, for some reason, he will soon be fronting the Colgate-Palmolive corporation’s latest effort to use advertising to extend its oligopolistic market share: 42 percent of the global toothpaste market, according to its investor come-on webpage. With the help of fellows like Wilson, C-P uses its power to hawk over-priced, over-hyped, possibly harmful forms of old-tech commodities that long ago hit their right walls of objective improveability.

turd-trophyFor this ignoble move, Mr. Wilson hereby receives the highly un-coveted Golden Hicksie.

Colgate-Palmolive? Their gross profit margins on their employment of Mr. Wilson and many other, rather less well-remunerated persons?

60 percent.

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.

The Trump Effect

stork carrying baby One important impact of the scum-floating-to-the-top phenomenon that is the Trump Presidency is its addlepation of the political left.

Here, for example, is the meat of an email I just received from Truthout:

“We live in an age where lies can be used to justify pretty much anything: revoke a press pass, deny thousands of people asylum, change laws affecting people’s basic rights. This is somewhat ironic, considering that we live in an age of technology more sophisticated than ever before.”

The proposition here is that, with Trump’s election, we have entered an “age of lies,” with the features listed above.

This is multiply precious.

First of all, the triumph of Trump has been foreseeable, if not predictable, since at least 1987, when The Art of the Deal consolidated this megalomaniacal rentier cretin’s Reaganite fame. Certainly, the thesis that government should be run like a business has always been at the heart of the ongoing Great Restoration/Reagan Revolution.

Et voila, this knownothing TV terminator.

Meanwhile, what kind of age do Truthout‘s people think we lived in before the wonderful Electoral College seated this mentally ill, proudly ignorant election-loser?

Here at TCT, we have always been impressed with the power of this observation by the late Robert L. Heilbroner:

“At a business forum, I was once brash enough to say that I thought the main cultural impact of television advertising was to teach children that grown-ups told lies for money. How strong, deep, or sustaining can be the values of a civilization that generates a ceaseless flow of half-truths and careful deceptions?”

Heilbroner said that in 1976.

Finally, how cute is it that Truthout supposes that modern technology somehow supports, rather than clashes with, truth-telling? Has the climate for realism and democracy ever suffered a more fateful blow than the one struck by the continuing ascendancy of electronic audio-video machines? That a lefty operation with “truth” in its name can possibly miss the deep importance of the old tech of print literacy and direct human conversation is, I fear, a true sign of the times — times which did not begin in November of 2016.

Ralph Nader Thinks Advertising Doesn’t Work?

Ralph Nader has a new interview with Advertising Age. [It may be pay-walled, so TCT refrains from linking; you can find it.]

In the interview, Mr. Nader muses on “advertising inefficacy.” Commenting on the timeless fact that marketing remains something far less efficient than computer programming and that marketers are never sure which parts of their efforts are the ones that produce behavioral changes, Nader is apparently trying the tack of taking all this as proof that advertising is entirely ineffective, a mere vehicle for “misbehavior” by those who plan and sell it.

Nader’s underlying theory seems to be that, if he can only implant the news that advertising is a pointless waste, then TPTB will move against its ever-increasing importance in our lives. Here is Nader’s explanation of his motive:

“The more attention paid to advertising inefficacy, the more the FTC is going to wake up, and the more they wake up, the more Congress may wake up.”

Not only is this stunningly naive in political terms, but it simply ignores the serious evidence on the way marketing and advertising produce their intended results.

If we really want to address the galloping commercialization and commodification of our world, we can’t indulge cavalier opportunism, no matter how venerable the source. Delusion will get us nowhere. We need to describe reality if we want to exert some reasonable control over it. We are up against deep — and deeply logical — institutions. They will not yield to frippery.