Monday, July 7, 2008

Consumers as Peacemakers?

American consumerism gets trashed so often and so comprehensively that it was odd to run across a defense of it that doesn't rely on economic arguments about "growth is good". In An All-Consuming Century: Why Commercialism Won in Modern America, Gary Cross makes an interesting point: "Consumerism does not demand self-denial for the individual to be a part of the group, and it allows people to distinguish themselves without denying the rights or existence of others (as have many political or even religious movements)." Buying goods allows people to mark who they are, without the need for tribal groups that exclude other people, and in so doing, it cuts down on violence. This could help explain why the United States, with all its conflicting social, ethnic, and religious groups, has had relatively little violence over the decades. It also serves as a caution for social activists, not so much about doing away with consumerism but about the need for something equally pacific to replace it.

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