• Ilya B Shambat
    194
    A former friend of mine in California, who was a Marxist, told me that people in capitalism were involved in the “ideology of mass consumption.” My question is, Is this really an ideology?

    Many people want wealth without it being ideological. Let's face it, wealth is attractive. It is even attractive to people who have not had ideological indoctrination into capitalism or anything of the sort. It was attractive for example to Soviet residents living under Communism. So is this really ideological, or are we dealing with something that people simply want?

    Certainly there are times when it is done in a coercive manner. People are taught that they need to have lots of wealth or they are losers. When I wanted money it was not for the sake of money itself but for the sake of credibility. I was under the impression that nobody would take my views seriously unless I had lots of wealth. I have since found out that there are a number of ways to credibility, money being only one of them, and others including such things as wisdom and strength.

    Is there an ideology of mass consumption going on? I think that there are a number of things going on. One, once again, is that wealth is simply attractive and will continue to attract people who want it whatever their ideology. Another is that when we have coercion toward wealth, we have negative results. Everyone wants to become wealthy. Nobody wants to do tasks that do not generate much wealth for themselves but have vast benefit. Scientists, teachers, military, police and any number of others do not make very much money, but their contributions are vast.

    Are these people losers because they don't make very much money? No, they are not. Without the scientist the businessman would have very little to sell. Without the teacher the businessman would not have the knowledge that he needs to do his job, and most workers would be unemployable. Without the military and the police there would be no protection for property rights. Some see such people as losers or even irresponsible. They are neither. They need them.

    If you have been lead to believe that you are a loser unless you have millions of dollars, think again. Many of the most significant contributors did not make very much money. Nikolai Tesla died in poverty. Thomas Jefferson died deeply in debt. Karl Marx was poor, yet for a long time two fifths of the world followed his ideas. Some people who make significant contributions are rewarded monetarily in their lifetimes, others are not. Once again, some would see such people as losers. Yet they have made bigger contributions than have the people who believe such a thing.

    Most things that are good can be used for wrong. It does not damn the value; it damns its misuse. With money, what we see is a good thing that can be used for wrong. We see the same thing with such things as beauty and intelligence. It is important to separate the value from the misuses of the value.

    So that while it may very well be undesirable for people to be under coercion to make lots of money, it is however not an ideology. One again, wealth is attractive. I expect that it will continue to be attractive. Some people may very well make an ideology of it and use it for wrongdoing. But I anticipate that many people will want to be wealthy whatever their ideology.
  • Son of a Bitch
    2.6k
    For me it depends on what you mean by “wealthy”. I would like to have $1 million of cash, but I don’t need to be like Jeff Bezos. A lot of people think $1 million is a lot of money, but to someone like Bezos, it is chump change.
  • Son of a Bitch
    2.6k


    You don’t have to defend your wealth if you are truly wealthy (unless it is in the billions of dollars, then I would say you’re treading on the people and institutions who made your wealth possible). May I ask how you made your money? You don’t have to answer if it makes you uncomfortable.
  • Son of a Bitch
    2.6k


    Now I’m wondering if it was by illegal or unethical means.
  • wax
    301
    by the by; I always think it is ironic that police forces have the impact on society of making the accumulation of wealth possible by enforcing the law. And it is only possible for a thief to find utility in stealing, because some people have accumulated wealth, therefore thieves actually depend on the existence of police authorities for their way of life.
  • Ilya B Shambat
    194
    I worked in the computer industry.
  • Son of a Bitch
    2.6k
    I’m perhaps going to cross a line. Does it have to do with hacking and identity theft?
  • TogetherTurtle
    353
    I think an ideology has to come from somewhere. For it to be a way of life, that way of life must be desirable in some way, no? A society needs a common goal and for Americans, that may very well be mass consumption and the accumulation of wealth. I think it's just as selfish as hoarding wisdom or strength (as some people and nations throughout history have done) but I also believe as humans we are selfish creatures. For the most part, I think we are focused on surviving in the immediate future and wealth can be a huge boon to that.
  • Bitter Crank
    9.6k
    You should disambiguate Capitalism, on the one hand, and "An Ideology of Mass Consumption" on the other.

    Consuming goods does not make one rich. Indeed, one can end up broke -- and many people do go broke buying stuff. What consumption does for the individual is allow him or her to display "signs of affluence" which may or may not be empty symbols. Capitalism benefits from mass consumption (its a necessary part of many economies, certainly), but the wealth of capitalists is gained by exploiting the labor of workers. Capitalism is older than any "ideology of mass consumption".

    There have always been a small club of wealthy and powerful people who were able to spend money on ostentatious consumption (the Bourbons, Hapsburgs, and Romanovs, for example). Later on industrialists (capitalists) accumulated great wealth (Carnegie, Vanderbilt, Krupp, et al). These very rich entrepreneurs could afford to build huge mansions and large yachts, and fill them with luxury goods. None of this is what I take to mean an "ideology of mass consumption".

    Mass consumption began after the industrial revolution, of course, and slowly developed among the classes well removed from the uber-rich. Henry Ford began a project of planned consumption when he raised the pay of at least many of his workers to a level high enough that they could (eventually) afford to buy one of the cars they were making. Ford engineers researched the survivability of Ford parts, and when they found a part that was barely worn after other parts were shot, it was cheapened. Ford's idea was that consumers should not buy 1 car per lifetime, but many cars per lifetime. That was great for his capitalist enterprise, and cheap cars appealed to the consumer. Later on car sales would be driven by mostly superfluous annual style changes--great style, in many cases, but transient style none the less.

    The merchandizers developed the means for consumers to see and buy far more goods than Ford cars. Sears, Wards, Macy's, Daytons, Hudsons, I. Magnin, etc. built a huge retail infrastructure where the ideology of mass consumption could be instantiated. Everything from ladies underwear to air compressors could be had conveniently.

    Urban areas facilitated another means to instantiate consumer ideology: the housing project. After WWII a huge number of houses were built, financed, and sold under the auspices of the Housing and Urban Development Administration.

    The ideology of mass consumption, based on cars, houses, and furnishings--facilitated further by extensive infrastructure, road and mass transit building--grew like kudzu (a noxious vine) across the land scape between say, 1920 and 1980, tempered by the Great Depression and WWII.

    HAVING became BEING. Having an attractively furnished house & late model car represented both good things (transportation and shelter) but also of having "arrived". Status required a minimum of money (earned in the capitalist work place), and on top of that a successful deployment of symbols.

    Mere clothes, cars, and houses were not enough. The clothes, cars and houses had to display the right values. A house worth x dollars in an integrated neighborhood didn't count for very much. Much better that the house was located in a neighborhood which displayed the values to which leaders aspired. Tasteul, affluent, white, safe. Nothing wrong with that, in my opinion. (What was wrong was that there was no separate but equal; there was no tasteful, affluent, black, safe. For the blacks it was the shithole, basically. And not much else.

    Buying one's clothes from Sears or Wards was perfectly acceptable for the immobile working class. Quality was good, prices were affordable (cheap), and you could get it delivered to your house (just like Amazon). But if one wanted to climb the hierarchy, one had better buy better than Wards. Eventually you would need very good tailored suits, nicely fitted shirts, Florsheim Shoes (this is for the 1950s, you understand), black socks please; regulation tie. Not too wide, not too narrow, nothing even remotely loud or garish, for God's sake. You'd better drink the right liquor in decent glassware, smoke the right cigarettes or cigars, etc.

    That's the ideology of consumption: Being by buying.

    Of course the ideology moved down the demographic. The right Jordan running shoe was worth killing the wearer to get, which happened every now and then down in the ghetto. TV brand, hair do, which church you went to, etc. were as much a part of the ideology of consumption, being by buying, as the fine, very expensive wardrobe was that was made in Italy.
  • Ilya B Shambat
    194
    No hacking, no identity theft. Just worked with Oracle technology.
  • wax
    301


    It is interesting the idea that being rich allowed you to buy better quality products, and then consider things like gaming software that came along in more recent decades.

    A decent computer game might take millions to make, in the order of some movies, in budget. But once it has been made, anyone who has a spare 50 quid and games console, can buy the game.

    This is a departing perhaps from the old way of looking at things, in this example.

    In the old days a consumer product would have been an actual thing, and money and time had to be spent making the individual thing. With software, once made, it can simply be copied any number of times with little or no expense...
  • Bitter Crank
    9.6k
    Digital products are perfect for automated reproduction. To some degree many actual, material products are heavily automated too. Printing, for instance, which produces real substantive products (books, packaging, etc.) has a lot of automation built in. For example, o the newest presses, a camera photographs and numbers each printed page or sheet; at the same time, computers keep track of all sorts of machine operation.

    IF the packaging customer finds a package (especially if it is expensive packaging) has a flaw, they will look for the tiny number on it which corresponds to the photo of that sheet; from this information it can be determines who, exactly, was sitting at the controls at that instant, and probably what they were doing at that precise moment. The computer is also, to some extent, the supervisor.

    Why all this automated observation?? Because the presses are so extremely expensive, the products they print come out of the press extremely fast, and the media on which the machine is printing can also be expensive. Time is money, too.

    And it's a good thing, in many ways. A lot of work people do is inordinately tedious, whether it's lab work, factory work, printing, packaging software, teaching, etc.
  • praxis
    3.8k
    With money, what we see is a good thing that can be used for wrong.Ilya B Shambat

    Money is a medium of exchange. ‘Money’ as you use the term in this topic essentially means hoarding wealth or resources, and you apparently believe this is a “good thing.” There must be an implicit ideology behind your belief that this is a good thing.
  • wax
    301


    yes, automated production; either 3d printing, and/or robots etc, is really going to change the way society works...what will become of the consumer society?
    Some jobs will still need humans to do, like designing, the entertainment industries, medical areas, science/research etc....so I think that there will still have to be a financial structure, whereby people at the bottom get a universal wage, whether they work or not, and the people in vital jobs, will be able to afford mansions, perhaps mansions on the moon for example...that's if technology gets that far.
  • Ilya B Shambat
    194
    I never said that. Money is a medium of exchange, and it is good to make money. It is not however good to force people to spend their lives pursuing money at the expense of everything else.
  • praxis
    3.8k


    You wrote:
    Many people want wealth without it being ideological. Let's face it, wealth is attractive. It is even attractive to people who have not had ideological indoctrination into capitalism or anything of the sort.

    Wealth is basically hoarding, which you apparently believe is an inherently good thing, but it can used for wrong.

    I don’t see how hoarding is inherently good. There must be some system of ideas or ideals behind this belief.
  • Ilya B Shambat
    194
    Well Praxis, I myself am not into hoarding at all. I say that wealth is attractive, which you can observe from all sorts of people, including people in the former Communist blok who were raised to be against accumulation of wealth but took to wealth like fish to water.
  • Brett
    3k
    yet for a long time two thirds of the world followed his (Marx) ideas.Ilya B Shambat

    Followed? Hardly.
  • Bitter Crank
    9.6k
    Don't you have a response to my discussion of the difference between mass consumption and capitalism?
  • praxis
    3.8k


    There's no essential difference between hoarding money (wealth) and hoarding any other resource.

    Imagine a scenario where seven people are shipwrecked on a small island in the Pacific. On a small island, resources will be severely limited and it may be a struggle just to survive. The only food available might be coconuts, for example. Now imagine that one of the castaways, let's call him Thurston Howell III, is somehow able to hoard 75% of the coconuts.

    This is a good situation for Thurston because he has the best chance of survival. Also, he can force the other castaways to do things (perhaps "wrong" things) for him in exchange for coconuts, a resource they can't do without.

    In my view, there is nothing good about this situation. It would be mutually beneficial for everyone to work cooperatively and share resources fairly. It would lead to the best chance of survival and rescue for the most castaways. I believe that it would be the most meaningful way of life for the castaways while they were shipwrecked. Just imagine the kinds of goofy antics they could get into if they all worked together.

    You might say that my view is idealistic, but isn't the view that wealth is a good thing also at least implicitly idealistic?
  • Son of a Bitch
    2.6k
    yes, automated production; either 3d printing, and/or robots etc, is really going to change the way society works.wax

    I just postulated to my wife a couple of months ago that in a few years everyone is going to have 3D printers in their home. You will go to Amazon.com for example and click on a product you want, and instead of it being shipped to your house, it will be printed out in your home.
  • Bitter Crank
    9.6k
    Your expectations might be too high. Have you used an ordinary home printer recently? You got it for free, sort of, but the frequent ink refills you have to buy are expensive. They are wonderful little printers until they aren't any more. How much do you think the 3D printing stocks will cost? How messy will a 3D printing failure be? What if you don't like the product the machine printed--will Amazon.scam cheerfully refund your purchase? FINE PRINT: seller is not responsible for operator errors or privately owned equipment failures.

    Whether it works or not, it will be just another way of moving money out of your pocket into somebody else's.
  • Ilya B Shambat
    194
    I meant to say two fifths of the world.
  • Ilya B Shambat
    194
    So basically you are saying that there has been social coercion toward having wealth as a status symbol. I completely agree.
  • Brett
    3k


    Actually, my comment was unnecessary. But I was thinking that ‘followed’ was probably not what they were doing, because there was not much choice about the matter. But then again it might be the right word because people ‘follow’ orders. So ignore everything I said.
  • Josh Alfred
    118
    If moderation is an ideology, which it seemingly is, so too is mass consumption. I'd like to see an economy experiment with limitation on the amount of money one can make in a year. Black holes collapse because they consume so much, and we have the 1% that are fulfilling that nature or metaphor, which could result in the collapse of capitalism as we know it.
  • wax
    301
    Your expectations might be too high. Have you used an ordinary home printer recently? You got it for free, sort of, but the frequent ink refills you have to buy are expensive. They are wonderful little printers until they aren't any more. How much do you think the 3D printing stocks will cost? How messy will a 3D printing failure be? What if you don't like the product the machine printed--will Amazon.scam cheerfully refund your purchase? FINE PRINT: seller is not responsible for operator errors or privately owned equipment failures.

    Whether it works or not, it will be just another way of moving money out of your pocket into somebody else's.
    Bitter Crank

    if 3d printing really took off, I think it would be in the factory environment to start with; with expensive 3d printers.
  • Bitter Crank
    9.6k
    It seems to me that i read a laboratory had been able to produce bits of tissue using a 3D layering device loaded with the appropriate material--collagen, probably. Then placed in a bath of cells for a while, and then inserted into a mouse. The construct performed like a graft of natural tissue. Some tissues, like liver or possibly pancreatic tissue, or maybe retina tissue would be especially useful.

    3D layering certainly has a future, but as you say, probably in a factory environment. It IS interesting technology. I can see a future for it in fabricated food, like... lab grown meat-like material. The obvious use, though, is in one-off objects, like a complicated piece for an unusual but important machine, or unique fashion items.

    What we really need is replicator technology from the second generation of Star Trek. Say, you want a Rolex watch instead of a Timex, or fine Italian shoes instead of a pair from Walmart.
  • wax
    301


    there is the potential use of them in space, where they can't store that much in the way of spare parts.
  • Bitter Crank
    9.6k
    Hmmm. Hadn't thought about that. Have they tried printing in zero gravity?
  • Bitter Crank
    9.6k
    Here's a current 3D project -- printing prosthetic limbs.
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.