Sunday, March 27, 2005

Theses about consumer societies

1. When a consumer society becomes dominant, aesthetic value is measured in marketability and commercial values merge with artistic values. (Hence, the Grammies). What is valuable is what we imagine ourselves owning; this dream of ownership gives a work of art its aura.

2. In a consumer society, advertisements replace entertainment. Their purpose is to inspire insecurity, which becomes synonymous with desire, which is treasured as that which propels one into society. Advertisments mimic rationalism so that its parodies of logic, its fallacies, can be mistaken for reasoning, can convince.

3. Advertisements manifest the unifying ideology in a consumerist society, providing the imaginative space where citizens can comingle, replacing the physical space where conversations once occurred. Ads are the matrix undergirding the consumer society, its atmosphere, its substance. They are not merely an aspect of such a society, but it's very atomic structure. The fantasy in the ad space is now where our most meaningful interactions, our deepest and most affirming conversations with (imagined) others takes place.

4. Brands attached to products are emotional triggers. Ads attach emotions to inert words, to neutral everyday concepts and necessities, vivifying them, glamorizing the drudgery of subsistance, the necessities of reproducing our current ways of life. In this they replace ritualized religion.

5. The habit of narrating our existence, of making a unified, coherent story of our lives, derives from our exposure to advertising, which mythologizes the individual and his autonomous potency. The experience of sympathy, of vicariousness, these precede the notion of ourselves having a life story worth telling. A life story is always a public phenomenon, even when its completely personal and inarticulate. Because the personal narrative is socially generated, it internalizes in the interior monologue social mechanisms of control, the various insecurities to which we're subject. The degree to which we feel insecurity is simultaneously the degree to which we feel we belong to society. This is why our consumer products seem to assuage and intesify this insecurity at the same time.

6. The experience of vicarious sympathy as pleasure, a pleasure in the misery or joy of others, compensates for the loss of solidarity that stems from individualism. Consumer society depends on our experiencing sympathy as more satisfying than solidarity. Thus ads and commercial entertainment illustrate and emphasize the pleasures of observation and undermine the pleasures of participation.

7. Under capitalism, having an inner life becomes a commodity, an experience that is sold to the individual, and valued to the degree the individual has to pay for it. This inner life then becomes subject to the pressures of social emulation -- one compares its depth and profundity to that of other people and measures oneself accordingly.

1 comment:

  1. Just out of curiousity, are these points that you are developing into a larger paper (or maybe a book)? I would definitly love to read a more in-depth analysis of each of these points.