c的笔记本对《The Consumer Society Reader》的笔记(1)

The Consumer Society Reader
  • 书名: The Consumer Society Reader
  • 作者: Schor, Juliet (EDT)/ Holt, D. B. (EDT)
  • 页数: 502
  • 出版社: W W Norton & Co Inc
  • 出版年: 2000-8-1
  • Introduction
    ..the upscaling of the wealthy puts pressure on others to follow suit. Many households find themselves stretched thin ...As lifestyle norms require two earners, and jobs become increasingly demanding, time for family and community is squeezed. The acceleration of daily life, often for purposes of consuming, contributes to a feeling that things are out of control. People look back to an earlier era when there was time enough, even if living standards were less opulent. Many long for a simpler, more authentic, less materialist past. ...
    The second trend is the relentless commodification of all areas of social life, ... Perhaps the most striking aspect of this trend is the marketisation of a wide variety of goods and services that had hitherto been outside the profit nexus. ... more and more of what we consume is commodified, i.e., produced for sale on the market.
    Indeed, virtually no aspect of social life appears to be immune from these trends. "Personal style' is now a hot market commodity. Trend spotters scour the nation's inner cities, searching for the successors to the hip-hop innovators of the 1980s. They scrutinise the walk, the talk, the way one's pants are worn. At lightning speed, style moves from inner city to suburb and back again, a marketed commodity. But it's not just youth culture that is being replicated and sold. Business gurus urge everyone to perfect their personal style. Brand and market yourself, whomever you are.
    The relentless drive to commodify is also evident in the commercialisation of public space and culture. Advertising and marketing appear almost everywhere ... Sports arenas, previously named for communities, now sport corporate logos. ..
    Indeed, our deepest personal connections are increasingly dominated by market transactions, ... Little remains sacred, and separate from the world of the commodity. ..
    ..They questioned the very desirability of the WTO's sated purpose of increasing incomes through global trade. Rejecting the current system of cheap commodities based on exploiting labour and natural resources, they offered alternative visions of local economies built on sustainable agriculture, locally controlled manufacturing and retailing, and limited material desires. .. They stood against corporate consumerism, in favour of locally owned small businesses; they rejected the idea that one's personhood is defined by the logo on the shoe; and they argued against the impoverishment of small farmers and producers that globalisation has wrought.
    Perhaps most important has been the link between the spread of consumerism and the ongoing devastation of the natural environment. ... As the planet warms up, so too must the debate about our consumption, the ultimate cause of climate change.
    What drives consumer society? Is it corporations, who by their marketing and advertising campaigns ultimately determine what consumers want? or is it consumers, whom producers must satisfy in order to stay in business? This deceptively simple question has been at the heart of much of the scholarly literature, and continues to preoccupy both supporters and detractors of consumer society.
    .. One of the most influential contributions was the 1944 classic essay "The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception,"... Drawing on Marx's theory of alienation in the workplace, Adorno and Horkheimer argue that employers' needs for objectified and submissive workers created a parallel need for dominated, passive consumers. Creativity and subjectivity, the hallmarks of the artisanal economy, are simply incompatible with the deskilling and repetitiveness of mass-production industry. Culture, once brilliant, demanding, and intellectually challenging, becomes soothing, banal, familiar, and entertaining. ..
    For Adorno and Horkheimer, the objectification of labour requires the objectification of the consumer. .. This "paramount position of production" was to assume a central role in other influential critiques of consumer society, such as John Kenneth Galbraith's The Affluent Society. Galbraith was also posing the question of compatibility between production and consumption, but in ways more Keynesian than Marxian. In particular, the phenomenal increases in productivity that fuelled mass production had to be accompanied by similarly phenomenal increases in consumer demand. But how to ensure that the endless stream of cars, appliances, and other products would actually be sold?
    Galbraith's answer -- the dependence effect -- is that "the institutions of advertising and salesmanship ..create desires." The corporation both creates the want, and satisfies it. Compatibility is ensured because the same institution controls both sides of the market.
    This was to prove a potent theme in the fifties and early sixties, as the ascendance of Madison Avenue and its turn to ever more sophisticated psychological approaches alarmed many. .. In 1963 Betty Friedan produced a brilliant gynocentric companion piece to Adorno and Horkheimer's androcentric analysis. For the latter, production means factories and male workers; for Friedan, the relevant labour process is the household economy and occupation: housewife. But in both, work id boring, repetitive, unskilled, mundane. Friedan argues that the feminine mystique, and its attendant confinement of women to the home, was driven mainly by the need to sell products. ... Capitalism needed housewives, stunted in their careers, driven to purchase discerningly, manipulated into channeling their considerable creative potential into cake mixes, washing powders, and the choice of breakfast cereal rather than more significant accomplishments in the world of work.
    While they differed in many ways, these critical accounts shared certain themes -- they described false and true needs, a superficial, surface world of commodities versus an underlying realm of authentic life. .. There was a better, more authentic, and less consumerist way to live. But it was blocked by corporate power.
    A second critique was aesthetic. Mass production was derided as lacking quality, taste, and creativity. Thus, consumer society produced neither the good, the true, nor the beautiful. It was a great con game.
    The economic critiques explain how the profit motive leads to the organisation of consumption. They are less compelling in their descriptions of why consumers go along with corporate designs. One answer is that advertisers have been successful because they have been able to embed valued meanings in products. If correct, this argument leads to the important conclusion that meaning does not necessarily emanate from the material or functional aspects of products.
    As anthropology has been particularly good at showing, human understandings and experiences of what are seemingly objective properties are actually cultural constructions. Goods have symbolic meanings in all societies. However, capitalism poses a new problem -- imbuing functionally and materially similar products with different symbolic meanings. The marketer needs to induce the consumer to pay a premium for products that are mere commodities 9i.e., mass-produced, identical goods).
    ... It is with Jean Baudrillard, however, that we begin to find a fully articulated theory of the production of social meaning through commodities. The primary target of his damning essays is the argument of most defenders of consumer society -- the idea that commodities are produced to respond to individual needs and wants. Such tautological formulations beg the question: How are these needs and wants produced?
    Baudrillard's answer is that individual desires are disguised expressions of social differences in a system of cultural meanings that is produced through commodities. This "fashion system" is a code -- an infinitely variable set of social differences -- that people access through consumption. It is not meaningful to talk about authentic versus false needs in Baudrillard's model, only the extent to which people have been absorbed into the fashion logic. One of the most important implications of this view is that if consumer society is premised upon the production of difference through commodities, then the system is extremely resilient. How can a social movement challenge consumer society without falling prey to the further expansion of fashionable difference through its opposition?
    Perhaps the most influential statement of the view that consumption structures social difference is Thorstein Veblen's 1899 Theory of the leisure Class. With trenchant wit, Veblen argued that in modern society, wealth (rather than military prowess) had become the basis of social esteem. However, wealth is difficult to measure. Therefore, visible expenditure and the display of idleness become the primary means to communicate the possession of riches. The wealthiest display most ostentatiously, and new consumer trends appear first at the top. Then they trickle down the hierarchy. Of course, social hierarchies are not static. Veblen was writing in a time like our own -- great fortunes were being made, and the nouveaux riches used luxury consumption (carriages, elaborately dressed servants, fancy dinner parties) to raise their social position. Central to Veblen's analyses were the ideas that consuming is a means of social communication; that it communicates class and income differences; and that within a society the valuations of goods are widely shared.
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