Saturday 12 May 2012

How To Become A Good Consumer

The so-called consumer economy and the politics of corporate capitalism have created a second nature of man which ties him libidinally and aggressively to the commodity form.  The need for possessing, consuming, handling, and constantly renewing the gadgets, devices, instruments, engines, offered to and imposed upon the people... has become a "biological" need...  The second nature of man thus militates against any change that would disrupt and perhaps even abolish this dependence of man on a market ever more densely filled with merchandise -- abolish his existence as a consumer consuming himself in buying and selling.  The needs generated by this system are thus eminently stabilizing, conservative needs: the counterrevolution anchored in the instinctual structure.

Corporate capitalism creates the needs within human beings by which the purchase and use (consumption) of technology and commodities become a necessary component of human "actualization."  The frustration and aggression arising from life in capitalist civilization -- with its overt and subtle forms of exploitation, oppression, and regimentation -- finds its outlet through the consumption of commodities.  Values such as self-determination are re-defined in terms of the perceived control and autonomous use of commodities as well as the freedoms within constraints that become naturalized as part of the capitalist social order. 

The pervasiveness of consumer identities and its conservative and counterrevolutionary consequences become one of the impediments for the revolutionizing of the working class.  Radical working class consciousness becomes effectively obstructed as long as the consumption-based needs and identities of human beings remain intact and psycho-biologically connected to the maintenance of the capitalist status quo. 

Liberation, therefore, entails the subversion of the psychological and socialized attachment to commodity consumption, and the re-envisioning and redefinition of values and needs emancipated from the standardized pleasure, status, and symbols which reproduce the contemporary capitalist political-economic system.

From “An Essay on Liberation”, by Herbert Marcuse

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