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Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole Paperback – March 17, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Barber returns to the clashing models of civilization of his earlier Jihad vs. McWorld, focusing this time on the expanding global culture of market forces he claims will destory not only democracy but even capitalism, if left unchecked. He warns of a totalitarian "ethos of induced childishness" that not only seeks to turn the young into aggressive consumers but to arrest the psychological development of adults as well, "freeing" them to indulge in puerile and narcissistic purchases based on "stupid" brand loyalties. The increasing drive toward privatization compounds the problem, generating a "civic schizophrenia" where everybody wants service but nobody wants to serve. His complaint is so broad that it occasionally edges into crankiness, as he blames infantilization for ruining everything from Hollywood movies to NBA basketball; even other liberal cultural commentators, especially Steven Johnson (Everything Bad Is Good for You), come in for much criticism. Barber recognizes that the "Jihadist" rejection of consumer culture is equally undemocratic, but still believes the system can be changed from within, citing the corporate responsibility movement and activist boycotts. His dense analysis can be a tough slog in spots, but the provocative attacks on capitalism's excesses will resonate with many. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Barber, the Gershon and Carol Kekst Professor of Civil Society at the University of Maryland, has devoted much of his life to the study of the effects of the consumer market on individuals and society as a whole. His hypothesis that consumer culture has turned adult citizens into children by catering to the lowest common denominator rings only too true, even if the sheer density and obsequiousness of this examination are likely to turn off much of the popular readership. Therein lies the conundrum of reviewing this impressive piece of work, wherein Barber proves his theory that the market imperative has conditioned us to lap up the easy offerings and reject hard, complicated works. This lifelong study of the effects of capitalism and privatization reveals a pervasiveness of branding and homogenization from which there is seemingly no turning back. With the call to arms of grassroots resistance, he does offer a glimmer of hope; despite the heavy weight, Barber's work deserves and surely will find its audience. David Siegfried
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top customer reviews
People defend popular culture such as Harry Potter or Shrek, but these are all pure escapism and have very little relevance to our daily lives. Reviewers of those films make tortured comparisons to try and prove relevance to daily life, but the sad fact is that many people have become conditioned to not expect more, and perhaps not even have the patience to view a more substantive work.
Other reviewers insist that they aren't manipulated and that they have free choice. To an extent that is true, but one can easily argue that many people are making poor choices because they have been so deeply conditioned by advertisers. How can you justify spending 50K$ on a car, and replacing it when it is 3 years old when an inexpensive well-made car will fulfill the basic needs of transportation and may last 5-8 years instead? How can you justify spending money on bottled water when tap water in most areas is just fine? And how can you justify accumulating tens of thousands in consumer debt just to acquire all of this stuff? There are countless such examples all over the place.
And finally, there is the paradigm that runs deeply through our society that having more money and having more material goods will somehow make you happier. The problem is that these desires can never be satisfied - there is always something more, and there is always someone else who has more. In the end all of this materialism leaves people feeling empty, and the only tonic that they know to try and fill the void is to go out and shop some more.
On the other hand, if you can reach a point where you are content with what you have, you may find that many of the things that you do have are completely superfluous and can be donated to Goodwill or sold. Get rid of enough stuff, and that McMansion will seem empty, and a more modest and affordable house may meet your needs quite nicely.