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.
In today’s Advertising Age, another admission of the true nature of corporate marketing:
“Skincare is an interesting category for us because it’s one a decent number of men aren’t even using today,” said Dollar Shave CMO Adam Weber. “It allows us to do what we’ve done in some other categories, like butt wipes, by thinking about what men are doing and how we can change behavior.”
Men’s skincare has been a big but largely unfulfilled dream for many marketers in the U.S., where it’s a $263 million category growing about 3% annually, according to Euromonitor. Globally, the category is $3.5 billion and growing more than twice as fast.
If you know somebody who says regulations have prevented any aspiring capitalist from proceeding with an investment, ask that person for the details. There won’t be any, because, contrary to prevailing dogma, existing regulations simply do not stop anybody from investing in anything that is even remotely decent and beneficial to anybody but the aspiring overlords.
Meanwhile, adherents of the over-regulation shibboleth might profit by reading this little article from Bloomberg Business Week. There, author Ken Wells reports:
Over the past five years the price of photovoltaic panels has plummeted 75 percent, due largely to a glut of Chinese-made panels. The fall in prices rendered technically advanced photovoltaic panels, like those produced by Solyndra and other U.S. companies, too expensive to compete. But cheap panels have been a godsend for consumers.
Nationally, the average cost of residential installations—including hardware, permits, and labor—has plummeted from $9 a watt in 2006 to $5.46. Averaging in commercial industrial installations, the national installed price plummets to $3.45 a watt, says the Solar Energy Industries Association, a Washington-based trade group.
The result is a burgeoning rooftop revolution. The SEIA says almost 52,000 residential rooftop systems were installed in the U.S. last year, up 30 percent from a year earlier. Total rooftop installations, including on commercial buildings, grew 109 percent from 2010 to 2011, according to SEIA data. Total photovoltaic installations are projected to grow an additional 71 percent this year from 2011 levels.
But this boom is puny compared to what it ought to be:
Australia projects that 10 percent of its 8 million houses will have rooftop systems within the next 12 months—most of that growth coming in the past three years. European rooftop installations continue to outpace those in the U.S., even as some countries begin to pare subsidies that have helped spur a continental rooftop boom. Including residential, commercial, and industrial-scale projects, the world had installed about 67 gigawatts of photovoltaic power at the end of last year—up from just 1.5 gigawatts in 2000.
Despite [the] breakthroughs, the U.S. economy is harnessing only a fraction of solar’s potential benefits. Based on U.S. Census Bureau data, about 100 million U.S. residential units could physically hold rooftop systems one day, generating by one estimate 3.75 trillion kilowatt hours of electricity a year. In 2011, total U.S. electrical generation from all sources was about 4 trillion kilowatt hours—42 percent of that from coal, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
So, why does the United States — where a mere 52,000 installations constitutes a boom — lag so far behind? Turns out it’s the capitalists, who, in this case, fairly love their snarled and snarling regulations:
The trouble is, many of the big, investor-owned utilities that provide about 85 percent of America’s electricity see solar as both a technical challenge and a long-term threat to their 100-year-old profit models. And the lack of a national energy policy means regulation of solar is up to states, public service commissions, and a wealth of local governments and bureaucracies—many of whom have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.
The hidden costs of obtaining permits and regulators’ approval to install rooftop panels is a big reason the U.S. lags behind Germany, which leads the world in rooftop installations, with more than 1 million. The price of installed rooftop solar in Germany has fallen to $2.24 per watt. In fact, on a sunny day in May, rooftop provided all of Germany’s power needs for two hours. “This is a country on latitude with Maine,” says Dennis Wilson, president of the Mid-Atlantic Solar Energy Industries Association, a solar-installer trade group. “Germany is showing us what’s possible—if we can just get our act together.”
That’s easier said than done. Unlike the U.S., Germany has a national solar policy, a quick, inexpensive permitting process, and a national mandate that utilities sign up rooftop installations under what’s known as a feed-in tariff—essentially a long-term contract whereby the utilities agree not just to allow the solar on their grids but also to buy the excess power from consumers.
By contrast, the U.S. has more than 18,000 jurisdictions at the state and local level that have a say in how rooftop solar is rolled out, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. What’s more, electricity is supplied by investor-owned utilities, mostly state-regulated monopolies, which supply power from centralized hubs to captured consumers. Profit is in part tied to growth based on an ever-expanding demand as populations increase.
Rooftop solar poses a threat to that model by turning consumers into producers, thereby sapping utility revenue streams. It also diminishes the need to build expensive new plants and transmission lines.
Outside of academia, Etzioni’s voice is frequently heard in the media.
In 2001, Etzioni was named among the top 100 American intellectuals as measured by academic citations in Richard Posner’s book, Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline.
Also in 2001, Etzioni was awarded the John P. McGovern Award in Behavioral Sciences as well as the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. He was also the recipient of the Seventh James Wilbur Award for Extraordinary Contributions to the Appreciation and Advancement of Human Values by the Conference on Value Inquiry, as well as the Sociological Practice Association’s Outstanding Contribution Award.
So, what does this top 100 mind have to say about the ongoing radical commodification and commercialization of personal life in the United States and elsewhere?
Sit down, because you are about to LYFAO:
As long as consumption is focused on satisfying basic human needs–safety, shelter, food, clothing, health care, education–it is not consumerism. But, when the acquisition of goods and services is used to satisfy the higher needs, consumption turns into consumerism–and consumerism becomes a social disease.
The link to the economic crisis should be obvious. A culture in which the urge to consume dominates the psychology of citizens is a culture in which people will do most anything to acquire the means to consume–working slavish hours, behaving rapaciously in their business pursuits, and even bending the rules in order to maximize their earnings. They will also buy homes beyond their means and think nothing of running up credit-card debt. It therefore seems safe to say that consumerism is, as much as anything else, responsible for the current economic mess.
A shift away from consumerism, and toward this something else, would obviously be a dramatic change for American society.
To accomplish this kind of radical change, it is neither necessary nor desirable to imitate devotees of the 1960s counterculture, early socialists, or followers of ascetic religious orders, all of whom have resisted consumerism by rejecting the whole capitalist project. On the contrary, capitalism should be allowed to thrive, albeit within clear and well-enforced limits.
I certainly do not expect that most people will move away from a consumerist mindset overnight. Some may keep one foot in the old value system even as they test the waters of the new one, just like those who wear a blazer with jeans. Still others may merely cut back on conspicuous consumption without guilt or fear of social censure. Societies shift direction gradually. All that is needed is for more and more people to turn the current economic crisis into a liberation from the obsession with consumer goods and the uberwork it requires– and, bit by bit, begin to rethink their definition of what it means to live a good life. [Source: The New Republic, June 17, 2009]
Nevertheless, onward he plows in his field of air.
“Consumerism,” Etzioni says, is a “mindset” that automatically takes hold as soon as people stop living hand-to-mouth. Once any kind of affluence develops, this “social disease” emerges, and eventually people drive themselves crazy and even ruin their lovely capitalist economies in their unhinged quest “to acquire the means to consume.”
In this world, people run up their credit cards not because of stagnant wages and salaries, but because they want to. Capitalism, while perhaps needing a slap on the wrist, is squarely part of the solution, rather than the overwhelming and obvious main cause of the problem. And people can simply choose to drift away from current behavioral environments and habits. Nobody in the corporate power structure would much care about that, one way or the other. After all, “consumerism” comes from we the people and our chosen “culture,” not from the corporate overclass’s ever-expanding two-trillion-dollar-a-year marketing juggernaut. That minor endeavor exists merely to serve our pre-existing demands, obviously. Hence, it isn’t even worthy of a mention.
I’ll just say two things about this stunning pile of unscientific manure:
1. If an undergraduate handed me this essay, along with their C+, they would get back a long note about the importance of both taking care with definitions and making some attempt at reference to actual, empirical, documented realities in trying to do sociology.
2. Such is the stuff that gets you laureled as a scholar in this market-totalitarian nation of wall-to-wall lies. “A study of decline,” indeed.
If I were asked to choose the word that best describes the quality of daily life in corporate capitalist America, that word would be “thoughtless.” Ordinary people here aren’t often really consciously hostile to one another — just as they aren’t often conscious of real political and historical facts. Instead, they are simply heedless of anybody and anything that doesn’t reside or resonate within their bubbleworlds of home, car, workplace, and cell phone PIM.
The lion’s share of the blame for this rests not with ordinary people, but with corporate capitalism. This socio-economic order performs its function of further enriching the already rich by the constant growth of marketing and commodification. As this process unfolds, corporate media and messages, all of which are anchored in profit-making, increasingly crowd out non-commercial activities. As a result, the stuff of salesmanship — flattery, encouragement of navel-gazing and the acquisitive attitude, fear of a “mean world” beyond the supposed safety of packaged entertainments — increasingly erodes the social-psychological basis for thoughtfulness.
Sometimes, this crowding out is literally physical. Take the ongoing decline of automotive turn-signaling. This safety device (within our insanely unsafe corporate capitalist/autos-first transportation regime) is losing ground not just to continuing marketing-induced cognitive and ethical impairment, but to the cellular telephone itself, which, despite its peddlers’ denials, is now part and parcel of driving for growing numbers of ordinary Americans. The task of holding a steering wheel and a cellular phone simply leaves no hand free to flick the turn blinker.
Raymond Williams called this whole crucial process of decline “mobile privatization,” and knew it stemmed from the normal operation of modern capitalism. Alas, thoughtlessness is not just a core symptom of mobile privatization, but it serves as a very effective vaccine against criticism of it and resistance to it. It takes thoughtfulness to care about thoughtlessness!
Funny, isn’t it? In this supposedly “religious” society, institutional normalcy is killing the very basis of all but the pettiest, most selfish, least ethically relevant kinds of caring.