Interesting article on Andrew Potter, who with Joseph Heath wrote Rebel Sell. Potter’s ideas are not unique or original but they are placed within the context of contemporary pop culture in an easy to grasp everyperson’s manner that strip out all the balderdash and cow dung of a Zizek. The basis of all these theories on consumer behavior of course, go back to Thorstein Veblen and the Theory of the Leisure Class concepts of conspicuous consumption and conspicuous waste, the human pecking order and now in a service economy as Potter shows, the pervasiveness of social capital, but basically following the Veblen template and building on the Frankfurt School.
(see link at end)…According to Potter, a giant portion of modern people living in industrialized Western nations eventually notice just how much consumerism and conformity intrudes on their daily lives, and they seek release. The average person watching an interview of a reality television star on a 24-news-network following a musical performance by the latest winner of America’s Top Pawn Wife after a breakdown of what is trending on YouTube … The urge to walk away from all of that and get lost in the most obscure thing you can find, the most distant and untouched landscape you can visit, the least processed or marketed product you can put in your body, is strong and understandable and healthy, but Potter says it is ultimately futile.
…For this segment of society “the search for the authentic is positioned as the most pressing quest of our age,” writes Potter. This urge leads to those things that have earned the most anti-mainstream adjectives like local, organic, artisan, indie, all natural, underground, sustainable, free trade, slow, holistic, green, and so on. Yet, that ideology, that quest for the authentic, is the very thing that causes the world to seem so unreal and staged. People can’t stop themselves from competing for status. It is branded into the side of the brain before you are born. As a primate, status hierarchies are a part of life, and when you remove yourself from the competition in the mainstream you just join the competition in the counterculture. As long as there are clusters of people bent on avoiding what is most popular, within those clusters people will compete for status through conspicuous consumption of art and fashion, music and movies, furniture and gadgets, signaling to insiders the quality of their taste or the ingenuity of their search for the authentic, and signaling to the outsiders that they are not one of them. Whether you are a Juggalo in Kentucky or a Kogal in Tokyo, the internal affairs cool police are always on the prowl for posers….
Potter explains that, yes, modern culture can be hollow and self-absorbed and obsessed with consumption, but the competitive pressure to be more real, more authentic, and less conformist is no less exhausting or misguided. It’s a fascinating and challenging point of view. I think you’ll like the interview.Read More:http://youarenotsosmart.com/2012/10/08/yanss-podcast-episode-five/
Of course, another part of the dynamic is why society permits certain types of people, classes, to dominate the public discourse, assume leadership roles and dictate fashions and tastes while at the same time creating a culture of accommodation, seen in patterns of consumption, which also seems to engender a parasitic relationship and the sentiment of inferiority and auto-colonization to the views of the dominant class.
Adorno, Horkheimer:…But what is significant is not vulgarity, stupidity, and lack of polish. The culture industry did away with yesterday’s rubbish by its own perfection, and by forbidding and domesticating the amateurish, although it constantly allows gross blunders without which the standard of the exalted style cannot be perceived. But what is new is that the irreconcilable elements of culture, art and distraction, are subordinated to one end and subsumed under one false formula: the totality of the culture industry. It consists of repetition. That its characteristic innovations are never anything more than improvements of mass reproduction is not external to the system. It is with good reason that the interest of innumerable consumers is directed to the technique, and not to the contents—which are stubbornly repeated, outworn, and by now half-discredited. The social power which the spectators worship shows itself more effectively in the omnipresence of the
stereotype imposed by technical skill than in the stale ideologies for which the ephemeral contents stand in.
Nevertheless the culture industry remains the entertainment business. Its influence over the consumers is established by entertainment; that will ultimately be broken not by an outright decree, but by the hostility inherent in the principle of entertainment to what is greater than itself. Since all the tre
of the culture industry are profoundly embedded in the public by the whole social process, they are encouraged by the
survival of the market in this area.Read More:http://www9.georgetown.edu/faculty/irvinem/theory/Adorno-Horkheimer-Culture-Industry.pdf