Anti-Consumerism is Consumerist?

I’m not particularly invested in the whole “anti-consumerism, culture-jamming” movement, so I’m not particularly scandalized by that, but I’m not sure I get it.

Rebel Sell linked from MetaFilter (which has several other links.)

UPDATE: reading it. Getting it. Makes total sense.

The basic idea is this: the whole “anti-consumerism” meme is predicated on the notion that”capitalism/consumerism” is all about conformity. And that you can be different by not conforming and buying special differen things which those ordinary consumerists don’t buy.

But that’s not true; capitalism and consumerism don’t want everyone to try to be like everyone else — that would actually be fairly achieveable, on the materialistic side of things anyway, and capitalism doesn’t want you to have achieveable goals; you might reach them and stop buying things. Capitalism wants you to always try and be better, more special, than everbody else. And being anti-consumerist makes you the most special of all. So it’s the same vibe. “I’m one of the few cool ones because I buy Nike” is exactly the same thought, phrased in different words, as “I’m one of the few cool ones because I buy things that are more enlightened than Nike.”

Brilliant little article. I like. But of course, I would like. I’ve never been cool enough to choose a “rebel” product except for Linux, my current Mac I guess, and one lone pair of actual Birks bought back in grad school. So it’s easy for me to say “yeah, that is totally true,” cause I’m not the one he takes aim at.

3 thoughts on “Anti-Consumerism is Consumerist?”

  1. In _No Logo_, the bible of that movement, Naomi Klein seems to argue that the ‘anti-consumerist’ urge is about rebelling against the notion that identity can be found through the consumer impulse. So a choice of linux or a mac is very much a consumerist act if it’s made because of a desire to belong or to be ‘that guy with a mac’ but not if it’s made because, say, it’s the most appropriate tool for the job.

    In Klein’s work that notion of the definition of identity is then connected with the corporate takeover of the commons, the way western consumerism can only be sustained through the export of (to use the marxist language) the proletariat to other countries, and increasing social divides.

    No Logo is definitely one of the best articulations of this and sadly the movement as a whole (in part because of its non-hierarchical nature and in part the fact that we’re all enculturated within the consumerist construct) fails to match that articulation. But there is more to it than simply being cool by making a different (consumerist) choice.

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