Utopian society that incorporates diversity

An anthropologist, Redfield echoed this notion in work contrasting folk society with urban society. Hofstede conceptualized collectivism and individualism as part of a single continuum, with each cultural construct representing an opposite pole.

Utopian society that incorporates diversity

In this paper I will argue that such an approach inadvertently allies itself with reactionary anti-capitalisms as it fails to understand the contribution of consumer culture to the proliferation of values of freedom and personal development that underpin the Marxian notion of communism.

Therefore, I will suggest, there is a case for a socialist defence of consumer culture.

Utopian society that incorporates diversity

I will further argue that the capitalist relations of production and the growing inequalities resulting from them limit the liberty which consumerism inspires, while capitalist employers seek to expropriate the creative and inter-connected individuality fostered in the sphere of consumption.

Hence, I will suggest, there is a case for a consumerist critique of capitalism. Finally I will propose that consumerism also contributes to a development of the general intellect as capacity to imagine alternative futures and leaderless organization that make a realization of that critique less unlikely.

Consumerism is widely seen as the cultural expression of developed capitalism, and Marxist analyses from the s onwards have tried to show how the development of an absorbent market for consumer goods was driven by the needs of accumulation and valorization in late capitalism e.

Yet, with Berman, I will argue that from a dialectical point of view, capitalist consumer culture may still hold the key to unlocking the potential for human development that is both built up and held back by capitalism. He also believed that this progress is owed to the dismantling of traditional feudal, paternalistic and communal relations effected, largely, by the capitalist economy.

Marx was convinced that alienation in these terms — the destruction of the highly personal ties of the pre-capitalist world — was above all liberation. I will argue that the practice of consumerism has entrenched ideas of individual liberty and self- development beyond the point Marx could imagine as possible within a capitalist society.

I will further follow Marx as he makes the case that it is not individualism that is the problem in a liberal capitalist society, but its inability to fully realize the implicit promise of universal freedom.

Capitalist accumulation inevitably creates not only unknown freedoms, but also unheard-of inequalities. Still following Marx to an extent, I will argue that these inequalities are not in themselves the problem.

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The problem is that these inequalities translate into inequalities of power see e. Anti-consumerism as desperation of the left The initial socialist concern about consumption was not about how it is bad for you — it was how there is not enough of it.

The original intent of socialist politics was to distribute the product of social production equally among those who produce it — so everybody, and not just a few, can consume what they need and if possible, even more than that.

We live in a time when most human suffering is the direct result of the lack of goods. What most of humanity desperately needs is more consumption, more pharmaceuticals, more housing, more transport, more books, more computers.

Utopian society that incorporates diversity

This does not cover tactical political non-consumption e. Shaw and Thompson, But how is a concern for the material well-being of all transformed into a concern about the spread of consumerism even among the poor? My estimate would be that it all began when revolutionary socialism started to go wrong — when it became clear that the workers were not going to make the revolution that Marx had predicted they would.

In his pamphlet on imperialism, Lenin ascribed the failure of the workers of the industrialized nations to rise up, in essence, to consumerist bribery funded out of the profits of colonialist exploitation: Out of such enormous superprofits [ The notion of self-emancipation, so central to historical materialism, is quickly given up and replaced by the older idea of a vanguard educating the masses Geras, Geras gives us two examples: The first is Althusser: But if they are nothing more than this, how can they possibly destroy and transform these relations?

The answer is, as it has to be, by the power of a knowledge Theoretical Practice brought to them from elsewhere. The second is Marcuse: A new society, in this view, can only be formed out of people who have been freed from the stranglehold of consumerism — and hence it can only be built on the success of an anti-consumerist movement.

Anti-capitalism-as-anti-consumerism reneges on the idea of self-emancipation.

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Anti-consumerism — although it hardly ever describes itself in those terms — is a vanguard movement of an enlightened few trying to wean the intoxicated masses off their addiction to consumption e. For those who still have hope, however, it is no longer progress in terms of redistribution of wealth, equality of opportunities and democratization of social institutions that is the primary objective, but stemming the tide of commercialization and commoditization, which are understood as the ultimate weapons in the psychological warfare of corporate capitalism.

In this view, the alternative is consumerism and commoditization on one side and community and culture on the other.


As Igor Kopytoff puts it: In the sense that commoditization homogenizes value, while the essence of culture is discrimination, excessive commoditization is anti-cultural — as indeed so many have perceived it or sensed it to be.

One could say it is part of the self-elevation of the middle classes. Tyler and Bennett, and latent even in aspects of the fair trade discourse Raisborough and Adams, ; Varul, Contemporary class hatred, as Owen Jones points out, has a strong anti-consumerist streak: Many […] show their distaste towards working-class people who have embraced consumerism, only to spend their money in supposedly tacky and uncivilized ways rather than with the discreet elegance of the bourgeoisie.

Consumerism in the working classes was a moral concern throughout the 20th century Cross,and it was particularly articulated by the proponents of cultural pessimism and the conservative revolution which provided the intellectual background music for the rise of Fascism in the s and s.

In a commodity society where everything can be exchanged for everything else, there may be huge quantitative inequalities — but the legitimacy of qualitative inequality in terms of traditional hierarchies and religious authority crumbles away [1].firstly, and most importantly: the culture doesn't really exist.

it only exists in my mind and the minds of the people who've read about it. Pamela Abbott and Claire Wallace Pamela Abbott Director of the Centre for Equality and Diversity at Glasgow Caledonian University. The Abuse of Power in Shakespeare's Play, The Tempest - The play, The Tempest, by William Shakespeare is a very cleverly thought out piece of work.

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The University of Michigan established its School of Social Work in , although the university offered its first social work curriculum 30 years earlier. firstly, and most importantly: the culture doesn't really exist. it only exists in my mind and the minds of the people who've read about it.

Anti-capitalism and anti-consumerism seem to be part of the same package and, for some, anti-consumerism has become the core element of anti-capitalist activism.

Extracts from Emile Durkheim