DaRK PaRTY: What has happened to "shopping" in the
Jim: Not much; it's been pretty much the same for the last 100 years. Commentary changes, but buying stuff remains a central way of making meaning for life. That consumption is doing the "work" of religion is not new; it's the result of the Industrial Revolution. We're just changing the inventory of relics.
DP: Luxury items have become a huge commodity in the
Jim: They make us feel good. You buy feeling and the object is thrown in for free. Think Evian water. The value is not in the water, it's in the sensations. Ditto the Lexus.
DP: Have people become the brands they buy?
Jim: Well, sure, a bit but so what? That's like asking do people become the religions they worship. To a degree, yes, but the system of belief makes life meaningful. For a while, to some; certainly not everyone. As we grow older we shift brands.
Jim: "Greed" is a word I use to describe your consumption habits. Not mine. What is really at issue is taste. If you buy a Mercedes I may consider you greedy. If I do it its because I deserve it.
Almost 90 percent of what the middle class buys, we don't need. Need has nothing to do with modern consumption -- that's what makes it so interesting. This has never happened before in history. And it's true for great chunks of Europe, North America, and
DP: There's been a minor backlash against materialism -- will that backlash continue to take hold or is materialism going to continue to thrive?
Jim: If what you mean is the occasional appearance of voluntary simplicity then, yes, but this has more to do with how some 45-year-old women feel about their lives as consumers than with how 18 year old kids feel. When adolescents turn against "needless consumption" then you'll know something interesting is happening. That hasn't happened. If we have a serious economic Depression, it will.StumbleUpon | Digg | del.icio.us | Reddit | Technorati | E-mail