Imagining a world beyond consumerism(4)
Jonathan Rowson
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Great series, and thanks for the mention

Just a few thoughts that strike me across the whole piece, maybe as an agenda for a bit of constructive disagreement if we can ever get ourselves sorted to speak in person!

  1. Perhaps oddly, I think there is more to appreciate in Consumerism than I feel you give credit for. Having worked in adland for 10 years, I think it’s worth understanding and appreciating the beast a little better than easy dismissals like those often issued by e.g. Tim Jackson and Matthew Taylor reflect. From what came before, Consumerism represented a major increase in freedom and agency; it was a step up and solved (temporarily at least) some big problems. That’s part of why it’s so hard for us to move beyond…
  2. To my mind, the analysis of logics in part 1 is a little over complicated. The logic of Consumerism is very simple, if paradoxical/Orwellian: it states that the right thing for each of us to do is to seek the best deal for himself, as narrowly defined individuals, measured primarily in material standards of living, and in the short term; and promises that if everyone does that, the best society will result. That applies across all aspects of Consumer society, from politics to education to health to business (see Friedman) to personal consumption. It differs from the Subject logic (do as you’re told and the best society will result) and what’s emerging, which we call the Citizen logic (something like: get involved in the debate as to what’s best for the collective and the best society will result). But it’s brutally simple.
  3. Finally, on this piece, I think you’re right that “the challenge is to make places and times for citizenship to manifest.” That’s what our work is as NCP, and the beauty of it is we think it can be everywhere, pretty much any time. The nature of our work with businesses, hospitals, cultural institutions and much more is all about helping them realise the value (often both social and financial) of communicating with people in this way, and the greater benefits that accrue to everyone involved from doing so. It’s not just politics, it’s everything: it’s about changing the story we surround ourselves with, one interaction at a time. The joy of it is the simple fact that human beings are participatory creatures by our most fundamental nature, so when this space is created, it’s always embraced. That makes our work beautifully rewarding; I just can’t understand why everyone isn’t doing it yet!!
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