Friday, September 23, 2011

The Community of Things

By Jon E Wilson
New Left Project
September 23, 2011

Shopping is usually a collective act. Most of the time it is done in groups, in families or with friends. Much of our consumption is for other people; or we have other people in mind when we’re doing it. In the supermarket, we buy for our families. In the high street, teenagers buy the same clothes and music as their peer group. Consumption by children and adults is driven by a sense of what we need to keep our collective lives together; and by the way in which owning the same things as others gives us status amongst our peers.

In their effort to reformulate progressive politics, many on the left have called for the creation of a `post-consumer society’ in which more noble values than shopping lie at the centre of British life. Neil Lawson, Director of Compass, blames consumerism for most of the ills of modern capitalism, from the decline of democracy to climate change.

A similar point is made in very different language on the right. Conservatives like Daily Mail columnist Quentin Letts suggest that our present `orgy of consumerism’ undermines common `Christian values’ and `sensible husbandry’. In public discourse the abstract concept of `consumerism’ almost always describes a bad thing. Consumerism is criticised as a debilitating condition that destroys the sources of solidarity and common life. The critique in each case is that consumption is driven by a selfish desire to infinitely accumulate.

Read more HERE.

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