About

I write about technology, psychoanalysis, philosophy, design, ideology & Slavoj Žižek.

Appreciation

July 11, 2009

Hedonism, Capitalism & Consumerism

Two books on how businesses and marketing have co-opted the language of nonconformism, individualism and rebellion. Today’s counterculture is effectively the research and development department of global consume capitalism, taking further the capitalist hedonistic injunction: enjoy.

See also:

But, we should avoid the obvious retro-romantic nostalgia of selling out that implies that at some point in the distant past, there was an authentic moment that truly challenged the status quo, only to be captured by the enemy and we need to work hard to recapture that.

For this, we should look at The romantic ethic and the spirit of modern consumerism by Colin Campbell

The problem with the countercultural Left is that they have mistaken one side of a split within capitalism as capitalism itself. Concretely, the capitalist split is between the protestant ethic (“work hard, settle down, be part of the system & community, raise a family, put off enjoyment, etc.”) and the romantic ethic (“hedonism, enjoy sex, drugs, music, life right now, beautiful things fulfillment, find yourself, be authentic, individualism, etc.”), and the countercultural Left identifies these two as mainstream Capitalist vs. counterculture anti-Capitalist.

In reality, this division is Good Employee vs. Good Consumer, but one does no sell-out and become the other. Behind the superficial tension between the lies a deeper capitalist ideology, so that it is much more accurate to say that the Left co-opted Romantic countercultural hedonism, mistaking it for genuine radical movement, than what is usually claimed, that consumerism co-opted counterculture.

This mistake leads to the Left making the following ridiculous critique: “Capitalism’s major flaw is its inability to provide us with true consume hedonism”, ignoring the true problems of inequality, injustice, exploitation of people and the environment.

Even many ecologists claim that the primary environmental problem is that Capitalism destroys our sublime enjoyment of the beauty of nature with ugly factories, belching smokestacks, pollution, effectively reinforcing the dominant consumer ideology.

Here we can see Žižek’s formula in action: “Our perception of the problem is part of the problem”, which he develops in more detail in Maybe We Just Need A Different Chicken

Colloqium

Related Posts

August 5, 2014

The Cult of Sharing

The sharing economy's marquee startup Airbnb recently unveiled a new brand identity and positioning to help propel its international expansion. Airbnb's new wordmark and logo nicknamed "the Bélo" is said to have been the culmination of a year-long process, including a cross-cultural analysis to ensure their identity would be understood around

Read more →
January 6, 2014

The Agile Labor Union

In 2001, seventeen American, British and Canadian software engineers and IT managers met at a ski resort in Snowbird, Utah, to start a movement to remake the way software is built. Over the previous decade, the attendees had independently created similar processes for organizing and managing software engineering projects that broke

Read more →
February 13, 2014

Left Activism Goes Corporate: A Detour Through the Raw Food Underground

One of the most tedious features of the Silicon Valley Hype Machine is its endless repetition of progressive sounding marketing slogans about democracy and freedom, all while promoting a pro-business agenda. But it's too easy to read this as a sinister corporate ploy to co-opt the language of activists and twisting

Read more →

Recent Popular Posts

February 13, 2014

Left Activism Goes Corporate: A Detour Through the Raw Food Underground

One of the most tedious features of the Silicon Valley Hype Machine is its endless repetition of progressive sounding marketing slogans about democracy and freedom, all while promoting a pro-business agenda. But it's too easy to read this as a sinister corporate ploy to co-opt the language of activists and twisting

Read more →
December 20, 2013

Civility: A Distance That Brings Us Together

Just in time for the holidays, Apple's marketing department released *[Misunderstood][1]*, an ad about a surly teenager absorbed in his iPhone in the midst of scenes of his family's idyllic Christmas togetherness. But he surprises everyone when he reveals that the whole time he was making a touching video for everyone

Read more →
January 26, 2014

Ten Parenting Lessons I Learned from Franz Kafka

Here's an adage which I think is true: every theory of parenting is implicitly a theory of society. It follows that even if you aren't a parent now, nor ever intend to be one, if you're interested in society and culture, you ought to be interested in the topic because the

Read more →