Harvard Sells “Consumerism”

Louis Menand‘s new book is, despite having its moments, deeply strange. For one thing, despite being about the meaning of freedom in America, it lacks a central hypothesis.

Along its weird, almost pointless way, it also promotes this claim, with very close to no shading:

This period I’m writing about is the great triumph of consumerism. And consumerism means consumer choice, what they used to call consumer sovereignty. So when I go online to buy a pair of headphones for this interview, I can immediately comparison shop every available headphone on whatever company I’m buying it from. And there’s all kinds of ratings and so forth to enable me to make the best choice.

And that’s something that you see starting in mid 20th century and these economies is consumer choice. People experience that as a good thing. They experience that as freedom. I get to decide what kind of car I want and what kind of a washing machine I want, what kind of headphones I want. And the economy is giving me more and more choices.

Louis Menand interviewed by Ezra Klein, The New York Times, June 15, 2021

The book contains not one word about either the institution of marketing or the corporate power it serves. Not one word.

Neither does it come close to questioning the word “consumer.”

The great triumph of consumerism!

With Harvards like this, who needs ITT Tech?