when the revolution comes…

Joseph Heath put it very superbly. The modern condition, modern marketing and how criticism of mass society ends up increasing the cycle of consumerism. How books like “No Logo” by Naomi Klein actually make us more brand conscious and how this societal dissent is which involves an careful weaving of the concept of individuality laced with traces of American exceptionalism acts a powerful economic-cultural motor:

We find ourselves in an untenable situation On the one hand, we criticize conformity and encourage individuality and rebellion. On the other hand, we lament the fact that our ever-increasing standard of material consumption is failing to generate any lasting increase in happiness. This is because it is rebellion, not conformity, that generates the competitive structure that drives the wedge between consumption and happiness. As long as we continue to prize individuality, and as long as we express that individuality through what we own and where we live, we can expect to live in a consumerist society….

---Their Spring 2009 ad campaign cops a graphically bold stance of shopping with an aesthetic of defiance lifted directly from none other than… the icons of communist propaganda. Whether it makes you cringe, gag or crack and ironic smile, such an open embrace of socialist chic as a ploy to stimulate carefree consumerism is a sure reverberation of the hairpin turn in the zeitgeist. Eric Wilson writes for the NY Times: Consumers of the World Unite...I emailed the Times article to my friend who’s actually read Karl Marx, and here’s what he had to say: But when you view it ala Marx, it makes perfect sense. To him, all art is propaganda. And propaganda is simply anything that promotes a point of view. The Soviets were using their propaganda to promote nationalism; marketers are using the same images to promote consumerism, by simply making small changes (prettier models, having the lines move towards products). It’s still a “Join our bandwagon” message. read more:http://collectiveselection.com/?category_name=zeitgeist&paged=2

…Once we acknowledge the role that distinction plays in structuring consumption, it’s easy to see why people care about brands so much. Brands don’t bring us together, they set us apart. Of course, most sophisticated people claim that they don’t care about brands—a transparent falsehood. Most people who consider themselves “anti-consumerist” are extremely brand-conscious. They are able to fool themselves into believing that they don’t care because their preferences are primarily negative. They would never be caught dead driving a Chrysler or listening to Celine Dion. It is precisely by not buying these uncool items that they establish their social superiority. (It is also why, when they do consume “mass society” products, they must do so “ironically”—so as to preserve their distinction.) Read More:http://this.org/magazine/2002/11/01/the-rebel-sell/

Heath:Emma Goldman, we are told, “the famed anarchist and labour organizer,” lived on her street! How exciting for Klein! What a tremendous source of distinction that must be. Klein suggests that she may be forced to move out of her loft when the landlord decides to convert the building to condominiums. But wait a minute. If that happens, why doesn’t she just buy her loft? The problem, of course, is that a loft-living condominium doesn’t have quite the cachet of a “genuine” loft. It becomes, as Klein puts it, merely an apartment with “exceptionally high ceilings.” It is not her landlord, but her fear of losing social status that threatens to drive Klein from her neighbourhood. Here we can see the forces driving competitive consumption in their purest and most unadulterated form. Read More:http://this.org/magazine/2002/11/01/the-rebel-sell/ image:http://wilderapush.wikispaces.com/


Centrally, an ideology whether conservative or liberal is built on decisions that  generalize about human nature, history or the origins of the individual. As opposed to someone else’s similar efforts.  We have had a cycle between left and right for some time now, though the right seems to hold the upper hand through  taking over think-tanks and political parties. Ideology is almost almost indestructible. Its the basis of the modern service industry. The rhetoric of a Naomi Klein is not that distinct from a Glenn Beck or Ann Coulter.  Is it possible for politics to be less ideologized and avoid the fear and terror buttons. Doubtful.  Is there a whole other political language available, outside the left-right (and right-wrong) framework, that’s seems to assume a life of its own. But are not these wars, this lust to enjoy the tyranny of the majority simply acting as a reinforcement for our consumer culture? In fact, they are just competing visions of American exceptionalism, with the human being accorded the star role as center of the universe.

---What’s so different about her than, say, Gloria Steinem in this shirt.Frankly, Angie is acting in typical behavior for a liberal. Liberals love to talk about “risky” or “taboo” things, and then pat themselves on the back for being courageous. This is basically the exact same thing. She says she isn’t doing it for a publicity stunt? She’s doing it to “de-mystify” abortion? Please. She wants attention, pure and simple. Some women may indeed be scared to have abortions, but watching Angie Jackson talk about having one isn’t exactly going to lead scared women to a moment of pure enlightenment and relief. This is another typical feature of liberalism. Their narcissism leads them to think that everything they do inspires someone, or encourages someone, or is somehow meaningful or special. In real life, it isn’t. No one cares about Angie Jackson, and they wouldn’t even know she existed were it not for this controversy she created. Read More:http://liveaction.org/blog/how-can-someone-be-so-cold/

Salutin:Maurice Merleau-Ponty, a French philosopher, psychologist and journalist, died in 1961. He lived through the intense ideologies of the Soviet and Nazi years. He was on the left. He went so far as to defend some of Stalin’s policies because they fit the requirements of History, capitalized. But he was willing to rethink, toward the end of his shortened life, when he said progress “is not so much a movement toward a homogeneous or a classless society as the quest . . . for a life which is not unlivable for the greatest number.”

What a modest, achievable goal. It’s strange how much harder it is to compose a phrase like that than to riff off some “liberal” or “conservative” clichés. If someone like Merleau-Ponty can get there, others should at least make the effort. Read More:http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/978758–salutin-enough-with-the-right-and-the-left

—Simplistic liberal consumer-sovereignty arguments are in fact not an argument against consumerism, but an argument for enlightened consumerism. As such they pose no challenge to capitalist relations and we can expect the left to reject them. This has been explored in great detail in The Ecological Rift (Monthly Review Press, 2010), by John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark and Richard York.— Read More:http://links.org.au/node/1972

As Joseph Heath asserts,what we need to see is that consumption is not about conformity, it’s about distinction.For example,there’s no such thing as a green car. Spokesmen like James Woolsley has a special plug in Prius not available to the average consumer. That’s distinction.  Consider that most pollution occurs not on the roads but in producing these vehicles. And the The pollution costs of making huge SU

e less than a small Honda. The car is the issue, not the type of car. Woolsely is distinct in his choice, but the message is still consumerist.As for Nissan’s claim of zero emissions on its Leaf its not true.  Most of America’s electricity comes from coal. Satistics from the Dept. of Energy show coal producing about 2. pounds of CO2 per kWh electricity.

---Thomas:Our businessmen imagine themselves rebels, and our rebels sound more and more like ideologists of business. Henry Rollins, for example, the maker of loutish, overbearing music and composer of high-school-grade poetry, straddles both worlds unproblematically. Rollins' writing and lyrics strike all the standard alienated literary poses: He rails against overcivilization and yearns to "disconnect." He veers back and forth between vague threats toward "weak" people who "bring me down" and blustery declarations of his weightlifting ability and physical prowess. As a result he ruled for several years as the preeminent darling of Details magazine, a periodical handbook for the young executive on the rise, where rebellion has achieved a perfect synthesis with corporate ideology. read more:http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/f/frank-dissent.html image:http://www.couturesnob.com/2008/09/la-rive-gauche.html

If the Nissan Leaf gets the full 100 miles per charge, the  CO2 output will be 50 pounds per 100 miles.” In city driving, this represents about a 24% reduction over the Fit, but if we head to the highway, the carbon emissions of the Leaf are exactly the same as the Fiesta, which achieves 40 mpg fuel efficiency. The only difference at this point? A Fiesta can drive around 480 miles without stopping while Leaf owners enjoy 7 hour “fuel stops” as they sip energy with the 3.3 kW on-board charger.” Plus, the Leaf weighs a good 1,000 more than a Fit.

So, one  can feel  smugly superior to everyone driving gas powered cars. But, you must realize that mining, smelting and refining lithium is hardly green and the process alone is possibly just as destructive to the environment as the environmental damage electric cars will allegedly mitigate. But owning one will certainly be distinctive, a trophy and for men a substitute for a geek mistress.


---On the other hand, he said "when I picked up my Prius plug-in conversion, I stopped by Wal-Mart on my way home and picked up my infrastructure for $39.95 - a 100 foot cord. I could have gone cheaper and bought the 40 foot for $29.95, but I thought I would splurge." Woolsey's car now gets 150 - 200 miles per gallon and he estimates he pays about 2.5 cents per mile. He believes that consumers are just starting to understand the money saving potential of electric vehicles and are eager to have them available....---Read More:http://www.celsias.com/article/james-woolsey-headlines-fundraiser-plug-america/

Thomas Frank: As countercultural rebellion becomes corporate ideology, even the beloved Buddhism of the Beats wins a place on the executive bookshelf. In The Leader as Martial Artist (1993), Arnold Mindell advises men of commerce in the ways of the Tao, mastery of which he likens, of course, to surfing. For Mindell’s Zen businessman, as for the followers of Tom Peters, the world is a wildly chaotic place of opportunity, navigable only to an enlightened “leader” who can discern the “timespirits” at work behind the scenes. In terms Peters himself might use were he a more more meditative sort of inspiration professional, Mindell explains that “the wise facilitator” doesn’t seek to prevent the inevitable and random clashes between “conflicting field spirits,” but to anticipate such bouts of disorder and profit thereby. …

---The premise of One Dimensional Woman is that modern feminism has coalesced with capitalist consumerism which fails to place the nexus of struggle in the workplace and recognise the sexualisation and denigration of ever increasing casualisation. Moreover, Power plays with the possibility that pornography, so long the alpha omega of patriarchal sexual domination according to feminists, actually held out the possibility of subversion of monogamous heteronormativity. Instead, pornography today "deploys sex as something to and treated outside of other human and social relations." Power asks: "Whatever did happen to those dreams of living differently? To the radical Kibbutzim, co-housing groups, revolutionary cells? … Alternative living these days is more lively to refer to the fact that you've bolted a solar panel to your roof rather than undertaken any practical critique of the nuclear family."--- Read More:http://solomonsmindfield.blogspot.com/2009_12_01_archive.html image:http://www.greenoptions.com/forum/thread/2113/is-anyone-skipping-black-friday-and-celebrating-buy-nothing-day-instead

Tet, going back to Thorstein Veblen, the examples have changed in 100 years but the essential premise remains. property is accumulated, not just to satisfy our basic physical needs, but centrally, for its honorific qualities. It is to serve as a basis for invidious comparison, not just with respect to quantity, but also quality. Veblen said this sort of accumulation is collectively selfdefeating- even electric houses and green homes- for the simple reason that not everyone can be above average. The result is that, regardless of how much the standard of living rises, “the normal, average individual will live in chronic dissatisfaction with his present lot”(Veblen). The problem can be expressed through the notion of status: Status;   self-respect, esteem, honor, and merit, even Maslows’s self actualization, is basically an ordinal ranking system, and  the quest for status is a zero-sum game.


You can see that American exceptionalism contains a complicated and often contradictory set of assumptions. Do these assumptions stand up to the test of logical and empirical analysis? I do not think that they do, but one must face that fact that exceptionalism is an idea that has thrived in American society, though with many ups and downs in its levels of support. Ideas do influence human society, so in this sense American exceptionalism may be important in explanations of how Americans think and how they have acted.

The problem with cultural dissent in America isn’t that it’s been co-opted, absorbed, or ripped-off. Of course it’s been all of these things. But it has proven so hopelessly susceptible to such assaults for the same reason it has become so harmless in the first place, so toothless even before Mr. Geffen’s boys discover it angsting away in some bar in Lawrence, Kansas: It is no longer any different from the official culture it’s supposed to be subverting. The basic impulses of the countercultural idea, as descended from the holy Beats, are about as threatening to the new breed of antinomian businessmen as Anthony Robbins, selling success & how to achieve it on a late-night infomercial. Read More:http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/f/frank-dissent.html

Read More:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/books/chap1/americanexceptionalism.htm

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