Colonialism, indigenous peoples and the split in European socialism

seanno at seanno at
Sun Nov 28 12:51:45 MST 1999


I am confused.  At first you ask that I explain the structural and
institutional forces that go into organizing high mass consumption and
then a few paragraphs later you say that you "already know everything
about the structural and institutional forces"  because you have been
studying them for twenty years. So which is it? Do you already know
everything? Do you need an explanation?  Or are you just posing?

along the way you ask:

> Can you explain to me what the "structural and institutional forces
> which shape the range of "choice" in the first instance," as you so
> eloquently state, are? Consumers as brainless puppets who have no
> awareness of the function of advertising and who, made brain dead by the
> smart guys in slick suits, walk to malls in a daze to shop, rack up
> their credit card bills because some sleek pychologist found a way to
> program break!

People believe in all kinds of things that are dehumanizing, make them
complicit in their own oppression or are simply absurd.  70% of Americans
pray to God and over 1/3rd of Americans believe the earth was created in
exactly the manner discussed in the book of Genesis.  People who believe
in virgin birth and resurrection can be persuaded to believe any
absurdity. Families, schools, churches, mass media and advertising people
all work very hard to make people obedient and docile to a variety of
superstitions and dehumanizing institutions.

The marketing and advertising industries create consuming subjects
adequate to the task of high mass consumption, this is what packaging,
promotion, advertising and sales is all about.  Smart and creative people
get paid quite well to think up ways to socialize people to engage in
brand loyal consumerism.  As far as consumer debt goes some of it is
"uncontrolled consumer spending" at the swank and stylish places.
Increasingly though it is the working people who use credit cards for
necessities like groceries, auto insurance, medical expenses and school
supplies for their kids and subsequently sink into debt just trying to
make ends meet.  Household bankruptcy rates have hit record levels in the
last few years, debt to equity ratios in home ownership have increased and
debt servicing expenditures for households have also gone up.  Consumerism
and consumer debt are allied processes connected to capital accumulation,
surplus value realization and the reproduction of class relations.

Once more, your method of seeking the causes of consumerism in mammalian
brain structure and "human nature" is still mistaken.  It doesn't provide
another side or a means of looking at globalization and consumerism in a
positive and negative way and it isn't dialectical.  You have a problem
with the logic of your argument.  Using an effective or de facto constant
(like the mammalian brain or human nature) to explain a variable (like
consumer capitalism) misses the specific causal mechanisms at work.
Explanations in variation (or change across time) of a dependent variable
need to be made with recourse to indepedent variables that also vary (or
change across time).  Human nature can't explain the specific historically
contingent mode of social organization of capitalist consumerism in the
same way that the general lack of body hair in humans can't explain the
textile industry or cotton gin.

You include a quote from Roger Rosenblatt.  His essay the other night on
the PBS show Newshour dealing with Einstein, Freud and Marx made so many
factual errors I have a hard time taking anything he says seriously.
Rosenblatt claimed that Marx and Freud were relativists and that
relativism leads inevitably to absolute evil.  The bad seeds of Marx leads
to Lenin, to Stalin and Hitler, to Idi Amin and Milosevic and of course
all these folks are absolute and diabolical evil.  For Rosenblatt If Marx
had never written down his vile ideas nothing bad would have ever
happened.  Rosenblatt concludes his essay with something like:

"We are Free individuals only to the good that makes our freedom work"

In other words freedom is measured by our servility to the church, state
and capital.  Freedom becomes conformity to Rosenblatt's status quo. Like
Twitchell, Rosenblatt isn't a scholar or an intellectual.  He is just a
cheap propagandist and lair. Given your interest in people like Twitchell
and Rosenblatt and my hatred for the same people I don't see much purpose
in continuing this discussion.

Along with Lou's recommendation to check out Herbert Marcuse I think
Jackson Lears, Richard Ohmann, William Leach and Tom Frank have all
written much better accounts of various aspects of consumerism.

Sean Noonan
seanno at

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