Love and Consumer Culture

We cannot talk about sex and love without considering consumer culture. The explosion in the circulation of things since the industrial revolution, and especially over the last decade has made everything a target for consumption. Humans are no exception and we consume each other as products (saying to ourselves, as we are taught by the mass media, that it is “love”). But in fact we care much less about each other because we do not have the time or inclination.

Remember that the Romantic movement came with the industrial revolution. It was both an attempt to escape from the horror of what Walter Benjamin called “the age of mechanical reproduction” resulting from the industrial revolution and the “great transformation” remaking human society and also a product thereof. Ironically many efforts to find something human and natural that gives shelter from a world gone mad with consumption are themselves products of that trend. Starbucks is the perfect example. A cozy space that seems more human, more natural, closer to a world we wish existed. But Starbucks, or the I Phone are as much a product of that ruthless mechanical reproduction (and now mechanical consumption) as anything.

I have not seen much discussion of the linkage of the various disturbing trends in our society, in our politics, to the rate of technological change. But I would argue that if we cannot see that link, we cannot see anything at all.


4 responses to “Love and Consumer Culture

  1. Craig September 14, 2016 at 3:20 am

    But this has always been true. Money, wealth and commerce were not invented in the 19th century; similar thoughts can be read in the Epic of Gilgamesh, about the corrupting effects of the “city” (bearing in mind we’re talking about a place with, perhaps, 5000 people in it) and the innocence of the people from the countryside, the wicked effects of money and wealth and the poisonous effects of the market (in this case, not an abstraction – meaning, the literal marketplace).

    There’s nothing new here. And romantic love is an illusion.

    It might be that you seek a state that does not now, nor has ever, existed for people, at least for people who engage in specialize labour and live in large groups.

  2. Emanuel Pastreich September 14, 2016 at 3:46 am

    cannot disagree with this point Craig, except to say that I wish you would write regularly for the media on larger cultural and social issues as you are more often than not a more thoughtful observer than I.

  3. Craig September 14, 2016 at 6:57 pm

    Not a bad idea. I could! I shall consider it.

  4. Craig September 14, 2016 at 6:58 pm

    However, I would not be posting comments to your very insightful blog, unless it was not already very thoughtful and clever. You hardly need my peanut-gallery sniping!

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