Combining ideas on Capitalism and Consumption from Sahlins Cosmologies of Capitalism and Mintz’s Sugar, Sweetness and Power.
I advocate for the thought that parallels cultural theory, supposing that people’s conceptions are a function of their material circumstances. How does this relate to the modern conception of the wealth/poverty gap? With this perception of a middle class, and the mass consumption of products at every level of socio-economics?
When considering the general notion of local histories as unrelieved chronicles of cultural corruption, we must be careful to dually note that exploitation by the world system may well be an enrichment of the local system, as the strongest community may exist in the logic of the cultural change. Cultural persistence and growth come from what challenges and what new materials and processes are introduced. As a side note, environmental activism too sometimes takes on a Western skew, that new developments are ruining what is natural, but nature is not static.
So how have indigenous and rural societies that are rooted in the land shaped capitalism?
The capacity to reduce social properties to market values is what allows capitalism to master the cultural order.
Back to what drives the modern capitalist versus what drives the modern consumer. Blind faith in the market versus blind spending.
In current times, the act of buying is not about the product at hand, or its use value; its importance is in the ritual of shopping.
Work and pleasure.
Producers respond to demand, but how can demand even be measured when there are so many products of things that we don’t need? We are not going into the store with the intent of buying that item. We mindlessly shop and, by chance, see the particular product and think, “what the hell, I could use this”. So then how is this demand even created? We have so many choices, the demand is in the ritual. No one would go leisure shop if there were only two aisle in the store and it was actually stuff that we needed. That would just be a reminder of reality—toilet paper, laundry detergent, paper towels, diapers, milk, rain boots, thermal gloves—that’s depressing, I don’t have money for all that stuff that I need. Id rather go somewhere with hundreds of choices of stuff that I don’t need, and spend money I don’t have on those things, because if they don’t really have a use value in my practical life, then I can just store it in my closet and not have to think about the money that I spent.
So 21st century consumption is a cultural ritual that symbolizes leisure. When we are not participating in the 50 hour work week, we are browsing the local department stores as an act of fun. It is not about wealth or power, as the truly wealthy and powerful probably do still participate in normal leisure activities, it is the “middle-class” that has transformed leisure into shopping. It’s as if we shop as a way of informing ourselves about the evolution of products, to be in the know about what products are out there, to be a participant in this new light speed generation of product obsolescence.
I feel that Generation is determined by the notion of economic impacts and cultural reaction. In the time of the Great Depression, no one spent money and people hoarded whatever they could, getting the ultimate use value out of each product. In 2008 during another economic crisis, consumers were forced to think about their investments and their current job standing. In this 21st century generation, what are some key visible cultural reactions to current economic impacts? What are some current economic impacts?