C is for Consumerism

| March 23, 2014

C is for

Consumerism
Capitalism
Commercialization
Commodification

C is for all the ideas that tell us life is about things; experiences are things, time is a thing, life becomes simply a collection of things.

The aesthetics of Capitalism are very appealing;  we can collect our things, use them, and repeat the process. As consumers, we control the ‘market’ through supply and demand. Companies spend millions on advertising and marketing strategies in order to impress us. I find this rather odd, because I don’t think of myself as very influential person (at least in terms of economic influence). But everything in the world is telling me that I need to be wooed, impressed by my corporation suitors, vying for my attention: “the customer is always right”. (That is what the customer would want to hear!)

However, I would argue that most companies and large corporations pay little to no attention to consumers. We appear on neat pie charts in their monthly marketing meetings, and our demographic’s preferences are predicted and manipulated, but (the majority of) businesses are not interested in individuals. What they are after is our consumption.

Milton Friedman, who many would call the father of American capitalism, wrote in 1970 an article entitled, “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits”:

“The businessmen believe that they are defending free en­terprise when they declaim that business is not concerned “merely” with profit but also with promoting desirable “social” ends; that business has a “social conscience” and takes seriously its responsibilities for providing em­ployment, eliminating discrimination, avoid­ing pollution and whatever else may be the catchwords of the contemporary crop of re­formers. In fact they are–or would be if they or anyone else took them seriously–preach­ing pure and unadulterated socialism. Busi­nessmen who talk this way are unwitting pup­pets of the intellectual forces that have been undermining the basis of a free society these past decades.” (source)

The culture of capitalism is a dangerous one; businesses strive to survive in an almost Darwinian manner; “Survival of the fittest”, competitive, cut-throat. They will create a culture, a face, an aesthetic, to win over the customer.

In an age where corporations are recognized as people, we must be careful how we go about go living. We must recognize things are temporary, useful but never a substitute for human connection. Though we cannot survive without money, we must realize that money will never help us thrive.