Summary of Our Consumer Society

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In the video, "Our Consumer Society," the author discusses how consumerism has changed over time and how it has become an integral part of our society. He argues that consumerism leads to environmental destruction, exploitation, and social disconnection, and that it has driven us away from our own humanity.

  • 00:00:00 The video discusses how the concept of the "consumer society" has changed over time, and why. It explains that this change began in the city-states of Renaissance Italy and has continued to grow in the West. The main points of the video are that consumerism is a way of life, and that it has become a powerful force in modern society.
  • 00:05:00 The video discusses how the economy changed in the Renaissance, with increased trade between the East and West. The rich merchants of the time became wealthier and more disposable, which led to an increase in the number of household goods. At the same time, the ancient Greeks' values of inner virtue and restraint against materialism were adopted by the Christian Church. This change in attitudes towards consumption slowly began to change in the 18th century, as people became more addicted to coffee, tea, chocolate, and other cheap and abundant products made through slave labor.
  • 00:10:00 This video discusses the origins of consumerism and how it has changed throughout history. The modern consumer society is characterized by mass consumption, advertising, and disposable income.
  • 00:15:00 Consumerism has a complex history, with Romanticism playing an important role in the development of a consumerist outlook. Sociologist Colin Campbell argues that the consumer withdrawals from reality as fast as he encounters it, and that this new desire for new experiences is a product of modernity. Oscar Wilde's 1891 novel, "The Picture of Dorian Gray," satirizes this desire for new experiences.
  • 00:20:00 This video discusses the changing nature of consumerism and the need for society to adapt to this change. The video discusses the idea that our consumer society creates adventurers, explorers, dandies, and flanners who move through the world just to experience as much as possible. In the 17th century, philosopher and scientist Robert Boyle argued that while other creatures were content with easily attainable necessities, humans had a multiplicity of desires and greedy appetites. In the 18th century, philosopher and author Emile Zola wrote about the allure of the new department stores, calling them "altars of desire." In the early 20th century, psychologist and marketer Edward Bernays wrote that mass production is profitable only if its rhythm can be maintained. In the 20th century, Freud became central to the new advertising industry, and drew on his theories of sexual desire, oral gratification, and the pleasure principle to sell new brands and new products. In the 21st century, society is still adapting to the changing nature of consumerism.
  • 00:25:00 The video discusses how consumerism has become an integral part of our society and how it has changed over time. It discusses how the middle and upper classes have adopted different styles in order to set themselves apart and how trends keep revolving as new trendsetters turn away from the crowd.
  • 00:30:00 The video discusses the problems with consumerism, specifically the idea that it leads to environmental destruction, exploitation, and social disconnection. It also touches on the idea of alienation, which is a critique of consumerism that focuses on the way it separates us from our true nature.
  • 00:35:00 In this video, the author reviews the history of consumerism and alienation. He argues that we have become a society that is addicted to stuff, and that this addiction has driven us away from our own humanity. He also points out that the images we see in advertisements have little depth and do not accurately reflect reality.
  • 00:40:00 The postmodern consumer society is associated with the MTV viewer channel, which is characterized by disjointed sounds and flashing images with no real connection to one another. The viewer is simply enjoying the multiphrenic intensities and sensations of the surface of the images. It's all connected because flipping through MTV works through the same logic as fast fashion and gadgets with built-in obsolescence, all of which are designed to consume them quickly and move on to the next thing. This is a common critique of a postmodern culture, which some say underpins our consumer culture. If we look at art literature and film, they jump around stylistically and dotting about the surface easily consumable. Fast fashion trends come and go, styles in fashion and film are just stuck together in pastiche, and the world moves so fast that nothing can be properly understood, analyzed, and critiqued. In the philosopher Frederick Jameson's words, there is depthlessness to our world driven by production and consumption, but it also psychologizes us by infecting our culture too. The frankfurt school philosophers Adorno and Horkheimer argued that Hollywood and the wider culture industry developed across the 20th century was shallow and everything was standardized to reduce costs and commodified to
  • 00:45:00 Badriad, a critic of consumerism, discusses how the culture of consumption creates a "fantastic conspicuousness" of consumption. He argues that this creates a society where social power rules and people are socialized and consumerized.
  • 00:50:00 In this video, cultural critic Beaudrier discusses how modern consumer society has led to a decline in the importance of tradition, uniqueness, and personal history. He argues that we now live in a world where everything is in neutral colors, interchangeable, and fungible. He uses the example of Apple products to illustrate his point.
  • 00:55:00 Frederick Jameson argues that the shallow culture of postmodernity is a result of the fragmentation of the economy and the rise of fast fashion and technology.

01:00:00 - 01:20:00

The video discusses the idea of consumerism and how it can have both positive and negative consequences. It argues that we need to approach consumerism with a multi-faceted attitude and that depth means more eyes on the issues. Practical philosophy is important in trying to apply what we've learned.

  • 01:00:00 In his essay "Our Consumer Society," Harvey writes about how the current global system of flexible accumulation has fragmented and segmented our culture. He also discusses how this system has led to a loss of depth in our lives, as we become detached from the true use value of objects.
  • 01:05:00 The humanist problem is the problem of alienation, specifically from what is there really any authentic self to be alienated from. Critics say that there is no true self to be alienated from, and that we are all the product of self-creation and various experiences. However, Douglas Kellner argues that we are surrounded by image and sign and a hyperreality that alienates us from the real existence of everyday traditional life. However, he posits no real way out, and if consumerism alienates us, it doesn't mean it's wrong in and of itself. He says that the main problem of social life is to pin down meaning so that they stay still for a little time, and that we can make meaning deeper, more connected, and well-meaning by uncovering and creating patterns between things. This helps to turn the depthlessness of critiques of consumerism into its opposite, depth. Ultimately, by looking at things in depth, we aim to turn an alienated life into a more fulfilling one.
  • 01:10:00 Sazitelli argues that often rather than simply consuming brainlessly, consumers are active in the act of consumption, decoding and reframing the meaning and uses of material culture. She also writes that recent studies of audiences and media consumption show that spectators actively decodify messages and images, referring them to the context in which they are experienced to their own social position, gender life course, etc.
  • 01:15:00 In his article, "Our Consumer Society," author Adam Roberts discusses the idea that consumerism can have both negative and positive consequences. He points to thinkers such as Jean Baudrillard, who argue that the violence and death of the Vietnam War was a result of our consumer society, and Ivan Illich, who argues that the modern consumer society has caused us to become alienated from our own needs and from each other. Roberts argues that, if we examine our consumerism in depth, we can begin to develop a sense of ethical consumption. However, this is not always easy to do, as we are constantly bombarded with new information and controversies.
  • 01:20:00 The video discusses the concept of consumerism and how it can be both helpful and destructive. It argues that we need to approach consumerism with a multi-faceted attitude and that depth means more eyes on the issues. Practical philosophy is important in trying to apply what we've learned.

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