Sunday, September 17, 2017

On The Crisis: On "The Century of the Self" and on Consumerism and Commodification

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1. Summary
Crisis File

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, September 17, 2017. This Nederlog is a bit special, but there also is another Nederlog of today.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last four years:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I will continue with it.

On the moment I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and will continue.

2. Crisis File

There is only one file in the present
crisis file, and much of it consists of partial reproductions from (today's) Wikipedia. In fact, I have copied parts of the Wikipedia lemmas "The Century of the Self", "Consumerism" and "Commodification" in two respects: Only parts of the text are reproduced, and all notes have been removed, but otherwise what I reproduce is simply what is there.

Also, I decided to reproduce this mostly to help clarify some of my ideas, that you will find at the end. And there will be more on this topic -
"The Century of the Self" - later.

1. On "The Century of the Self" and on Consumerism and Commodification

The following bit is quoted from the Overview of the Wikipedia lemma
"The Century of the Self", which happens to be reasonable. Also, I put the summary by BBC publicity first, but otherwise the following Overview is unchanged:

To many in politics and business, the triumph of the self is the ultimate expression of democracy, where power has finally moved to the people. Certainly, the people may feel they are in charge, but are they really? The Century of the Self tells the untold and sometimes controversial story of the growth of the mass-consumer society. How was the all-consuming self created, by whom, and in whose interests?         BBC publicity.

Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, changed our perception of the mind and its workings. The documentary explores the various ways that governments and corporations have used Freud's theories. Freud and his nephew Edward Bernays, who was the first to use psychological techniques in public relations, are discussed in part one. His daughter Anna Freud, a pioneer of child psychology, is mentioned in part two. Wilhelm Reich, an opponent of Freud's theories, is discussed in part three.

Along these lines, The Century of the Self asks deeper questions about the roots and methods of consumerism and commodification and their implications. It also questions the modern way people see themselves, the attitudes to fashion, and superficiality.

The business and political worlds use psychological techniques to read, create and fulfill the desires of the public, and to make their products and speeches as pleasing as possible to consumers and voters. Curtis questions the intentions and origins of this relatively new approach to engaging the public.

Where once the political process was about engaging people's rational, conscious minds, as well as facilitating their needs as a group, Stuart Ewen, a historian of public relations, argues that politicians now appeal to primitive impulses that have little bearing on issues outside the narrow self-interests of a consumer society.

The words of Paul Mazur, a leading Wall Street banker working for Lehman Brothers in 1927, are cited: "We must shift America from a needs- to a desires-culture. People must be trained to desire, to want new things, even before the old have been entirely consumed. [...] Man's desires must overshadow his needs."

In part four the main subjects are Philip Gould, a political strategist, and Matthew Freud, a PR consultant and the great-grandson of Sigmund Freud. In the 1990s, they were instrumental to bringing the Democratic Party in the US and New Labour in the United Kingdom back into power through use of the focus group, originally invented by psychoanalysts employed by US corporations to allow consumers to express their feelings and needs, just as patients do in psychotherapy.

Curtis ends by saying that, "Although we feel we are free, in reality, we—like the politicians—have become the slaves of our own desires," and compares Britain and America to 'Democracity', an exhibit at the 1939 New York World's Fair created by Edward Bernays.  

Incidentally, the four videos of "The Century of the Self" take over 3 hours of viewing but are strongly recommended by me.

Next, here is the beginning of the item:

Consumerism is a social and economic order and ideology that encourages the acquisition of goods and services in ever-increasing amounts. With the industrial revolution, but particularly in the 20th century, mass production led to an economic crisis: there was overproduction – the supply of goods would grow beyond consumer demand, and so manufacturers turned to planned obsolescence and advertising to increase consumer spending. Early criticism of consumerism was in the works of Thorstein Veblen in 1899, which examined the middle class emerging at the turn of the 20th century, which came to fruition by the end of the 20th century through the process of globalization,

In economics, "consumerism" may refer to economic policies which emphasise consumption. In an abstract sense, it is the consideration that the free choice of consumers should strongly orient the choice by manufacturers of what is produced and how, and therefore orient the economic organization of a society (compare producerism, especially in the British sense of the term).

In this sense, consumerism expresses the idea not of "one man, one voice", but of "one dollar, one voice", which may or may not reflect the contribution of people to society.

Finally, here is the beginning of the item:

Commodification is the transformation of goods, services, ideas and people into commodities, or objects of trade. A commodity at its most basic, according to Arjun Appadurai, is "any thing intended for exchange," or any object of economic value. People are commodified—turned into objects—when working, by selling their labour on the market to an employer. One of its forms is slavery. Others are, the trading with animals and body parts through formalised or informalised organ transplant.

Commodification is often criticised on the grounds that some things ought not to be treated as commodities—for example education, data, information and knowledge in the digital age.

In fact, I have also seen the lemmas "fashion" and "superficiality, but these were resp. not good and quite bad. These are not reproduced here.

Now about my ideas (that are only summarized here and now):

As to commodification: It is - of course - especially about making people into commodities, and indeed they are made commodities in one sense by having to work (which millionaires and their children all can completely avoid).

But in fact much more is involved, namely making the people into consumers who spend their free money on commodities that satisfy their illusory and deluded  desires, that they acquired by viewing and reading propaganda, advertise-
ments, that provided intentionally misleading lies and misrepresentations of things and properties

And the lies and propaganda that they are misled with are based on extensive market research, focus groups, personal interviews etc. all of which is mostly intended to find out what the people want unconsciously, in terms of their
desires, rather than their needs. (And when these desires are found out, products are associated with these desires, in a manipulative way, just like Bernays - completely arbitrarily - associated smoking cigarettes with freedom and independence, and with the illusion that smoking meant that one is free and independent.)

And the fundamental objection to that is that all of this is based on very intentional and very extensive lying and misrepresentations and on radical and falsified simplifications of things, of people, of selfs, of groups, of groupthinking, of values, of society and of reality.

And it is a fact that nearly all things that are sold, these days at least, have some
propaganda and advertisements associated with them, while some things - that are especially popular or especially profitable - have a lot of propaganda and advertise- ments associated with them (and all propaganda and all advertisements are based ion lying or on deceiving: if these are not straight lies they are at least deceptive about some of the real qualities and costs of the things advertised).

More later.


[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 1 1/2 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).

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