[Marxism] Consumer Culture

DLVinvest at cs.com DLVinvest at cs.com
Thu Apr 29 19:39:46 MDT 2004

"Culture" must first be produced before it can be consumed.

Capitalists are usually more class-conscious than workers, and especially 
conscious of the war they wage every day -- the class struggle -- to extract the 
maximum possible value from the labor of the workers (who trade chunks of 
their time on earth for a wage for the means of subsistence) and to keep them from 
becoming conscious of the source of their own misery. Capitalists push 
consumption -- the purchase of commodities -- in order to realize the profit 
embodied in those "goods", but they push "consumerism" -- the notion that one's 
identity and the meaning of one's life are contained and expressed through what we 
"consume" -- to keep people from recognizing that value is derived from human 
labor, that is, in the process of production, not in the process of 
consumption. This ideology (and the commodity "fetishism" that is embedded in capitalist 
production) is especially appealing to people who are cut off from productive 
labor -- and there may be a "law" that the appeal of consumption as a 
defining characteristic of human life (or the primary aspect of personality) to 
individual "consumers" and households and sectors of the population grows in direct 
proportion not only to what conventional economists (bourgeois apologists) 
call their "disposable income" but also to the physical and emotional distance 
from actual participation in productive activity.

Recommendation: Read Marx to understand capitalist production and how it 
produces classes and the way they think. Read Veblen on what they choose to 
consume and why they think it's the be-all and end-all of life. But here's a 
proposition for debate: 

"The fundamental contradiction in the world today is between capitalist 
production -- its dynamic compulsion to grow or die --  and the capacity of the 
earth to sustain it without exhausting itself and the environment that sustains 
all life, and therefore between the rule of capitalists and the survival of 
life itself, including especially the rest of humanity as that form of life 
conscious of the threat and capable of choosing between utopia or oblivion "

Douglas L. Vaughan, Jr.
for Print, Film & Electronic Media
3140 W. 32nd Ave. 
Denver CO 80211

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