The New Feudalism - part II

After seeing the last post here at recycled minds, I was pleasantly surprised to see this line of thought expressed somewhere in the media. The U.S. lifestyle based on a never-ending cycle of the consumption of goods that are designed to be dysfunctional or obsolete not long after purchase is bad enough. When you tie in the credit debt that people have been enticed to take on in order to participate in this lifestyle, there enters in a certain level of unpredictability. We have now witnessed one possible outcome - the failure of numerous financial institutions and an impending recession and maybe depression. This cycle also serves to keep people tied to their debt, unable and unwilling to risk the loss of these products - products that have now extended to automobiles, homes, and even the weekly grocery bill for some. It serves to render the populace mute and ineffective - unable to participate in protest or actions of change. All of this leaves out the rest of the world that happens to be feeling the effects of our bumbling economy; it leaves out the rest of the world that has felt the effects of the creation of that economy. 
To keep this from getting any longer, and to sort of tie these thoughts together, I would like to share a piece by anthropologist John Sherry Jr. from his article, The Ethnographer's Apprentice: Trying Consumer Culture from the Outside In. 
Economists generally contend that economic development occasions some undesirable side effects, but they accept the enlightenment mantra that material progress breeds moral progress. A short laundry list of grievances would include the following indictments. Contemporary capitalisms are hegemonic in nature, and promote cultural homogenization; this massive reduction of diversity is considered both morally reprehensible and evolutionarily maladaptive. Globalization constitutes the enrichment of the core and the immiseration of the periphery. Ethnocide is waged via systematic cultural dislocation, and the spread of iatrogenic diseases integral to development. Ecocide is perpetuated through pollution and climate change. Materialism elevates acquisitiveness to a cultural syndrome, and the continued democratization of luxury promotes the endless escalation of insatiable want. Spectacle fosters distraction and complacency, encouraging a compliant citizenry. Consumer debt arises through and reinforces dysfunctional socialization and promotes a kind of indentured servitude. And so forth...
The article was printed in the Journal of Business Ethics, volume 80, 2008, wherein citations for parts of the above quote may be found. 

At least we still have beer.

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  1. Anonymous1:54 PM

    Great list of grievances, and the article hits the nail on the head. It's funny though, I don't think I have ever read a critique of consumer culture without the same caveat in the beginning...which usually goes something like, "While I participate in this culture, and sometimes joyously, I will condemn it.."
    In any case, these indictments are depressing.
    I wonder if there is any alternative at this point. The U.S. went from one extreme (Puritanism) to the other (the present)...what's in the middle?

  2. Anonymous10:18 PM

    That last comment brings up the tricky part of all of this. We live in a world run by consumerism and capitalism. We have no choice but to participate on some level, and you're fooling yourself if you never find any joy in the amazing materialism among which we live. It comes down to the choices we make - how we choose to take part. We must make our choices with care and deliberation, and become aware of the consequences of what we do and support as individuals.


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