May 25, 2008

Shopping with your genitals

About half way through a talk called Totalitarian Consumerism and the Death of Citizenship by Benjamin Barber [details and MP3 - look for the little speaker icon - at the link], and I'm sure it will develop better, but it starts from the well-worn premise that, in developed countries, all our needs are met and now the market has to construct essentially superfluous wants to keep things going, with Barber giving the example of the iPhone. This is an argument that only an intellectual could make, one who doesn't think, or doesn't want to give the impression of thinking, with their genitals.

We're primates, and our main want, after food and shelter, is for some good place in the hierarchy, leading to status / friendship / sex. That kind of thing. A flashy phone, the right pants, a new car - these things are cool, in certain circles, and lead to status / friendship / sex. It's true that the markers themselves are fairly arbitrary - this brand or that - but the underlying values that they represent, obtaining an object of scarcity, rationed either by an underground coolness quotient or the financial barriers to ownership, are genuine markers of social / sexual desirability. Rich guys and cool guys get to f*** more women and hotter women, if they want to, than the poor and uncool. Status counts, and even if you don't fall for the rules of this group [LV, Ferrari, etc], you'll fall for another [insert subculture fetish here], or another [ditto]. Such needs are not really manufactured, but are clamored for.

Obvious question: that accounts for men buying supposedly useless crap, but what about women? I'll be honest and not claim any detailed understanding of their status games, but have no doubt these are operating in some way, as they must do in all healthy folk of both sexes up to, say, 40 or so, the original life expectancy of the species, the age to have raised your own kids beyond sexual maturity.

But I'll finished the talk tomorrow, while washing up, and will no doubt recant all of the above.

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