Monday, April 18, 2005

Social democracy in action

I'm sure there's lots of rotten things about Ikea that I don't know about. And it's annoying that when you buy things like comforters, they're sized Amway-style according to some Ikea-only standard that forces you to continue to buy only their products. But when I'm in an Ikea store I feel like I get a sense of the priority structure of a country like Sweden, and I have to admmit, it feels pretty good. Maybe other people are disturbed by the cultishness and the totalization at work, but I'm charmed by the apparent consideration for its customers the company appears to demonstrate -- not by flattering them backhandedly and pretending that "they are always right" or infantilizing them or insisting that they are more special than the other customers around them being told the same thing but by providing wide walkways and readily accessible bathrooms and access to child care and that sort of thing. It may be that the company's pitches insinate themselves more readily in this comfortable atmosphere, and I am just a sucker for what amounts to nothing more than perceptive design choices. There's definitely a different feeling you get as a shopper going in there as opposed to Seaman's. No high pressure sales, no distortion or artifical limitation on your information. There is no oppressive sense of being about to be exploited, no forboding sense of anxiety. Perhaps this is a taste of what Scandanavian social democracy is like, where the logic of profit taking is superceded by a larger sense of social justice and communal welfare, where some effort is made to allow you to maintain a sense of humanity even as you proceed through the economy, where the exchanges you make don't reify you.

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