The Big Ideas of 2012

The End of the Consumerist Model

A political and economic imperative.
The End of the Consumerist Model

Nick Whalen

Audio version read by George Atherton – Right-click to download

I am writing these reflections in the midst of economic and political debates taking place throughout the world about the necessity of implementing stimulus plans to limit the destructive effects of the First planetary economic crisis of the capitalist world.

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Now when, in such debates, “investment stimulus” and “consumption stimulus” are spoken of in opposing terms, two distinct questions become confused, questions that, in fact, do require simultaneous treatment, yet according to two different scales of time, a difficulty which is all the greater, given that the present crisis heralds the end of the consumerist model.

Those who advocate stimulating consumption as the path to economic recovery want neither to hear nor speak about the end of consumerism. Yet, those who advocate stimulating investment are no more willing to call the consumerist industrial model into question. The French version of “stimulating investment” (which seems more subtle when it comes from Barack Obama) argues that the best way to save consumption is through investment, that is, by restoring “profitability,” which will in turn restore an entrepreneurial dynamism itself founded upon consumerism and its counterpart, market-driven productivism.

In other words, this “investment” produces no long-term view capable of drawing any lessons from the collapse of an industrial model based on the automobile, on oil, and on the construction of highway networks, as well as on the Hertzian networks of the culture industries. This ensemble has until recently formed the basis for consumerism, yet today it is obsolete, a fact which became clear during the autumn of 2008. Frankly speaking, this “investment” is not an investment: it is on the contrary a disinvestment, an abdication which consists in doing no more than burying one’s head in the sand.

This “investment policy,” which has no goal other than the reconstitution of the consumerist model, is the translation of a moribund ideology. It is a desperate attempt to prolong the life of a model which has become self-destructive by denying and concealing for as long as possible the fact that the consumerist model is now massively toxic (a toxicity extending far beyond the question of “toxic assets”) because it has reached its limits. This denial is a matter of trying, for as long as possible, to maintain the colossal profits that can be accrued by those capable of exploiting the toxicity of consumerism.

The consumerist model has reached its limits because it has become systemically short-termist, because it has given rise to a systemic stupidity that structurally prevents the reconstitution of a long-term horizon. This “investment” is not an investment according to any terms other than those of pure accounting: it is a pure and simple reestablishment of the state of things, trying to rebuild the industrial landscape without at all changing its structure, still less its axioms, all in the hope of protecting income levels that had hitherto been achievable.

Such may be the hope, but these are the false hopes of those with buried heads. The genuine object of debate raised by the crisis ought to be how to overcome the short-termism to which we have been led by a consumerism intrinsically destructive of all genuine investment, that is, of investment in the future, a short-termism which has systemically, and not accidentally, been translated into the decomposition of investment into speculation.

Whether we must, in order to avoid a major economic catastrophe, and to attenuate the social injustice caused by the crisis, stimulate consumption and the economic machine such as it still is, is a question as urgent as it is legitimate so long as such a policy does not simply aggravate the situation at the cost of millions and billions of euros or dollars while at the same time masking the true question, which is to produce a vision and a political will capable of progressively moving away from the economico-political complex of consumption so as to enter into the complex of a new type of investment. This new kind of investment must be a social and political investment or, in other words, an investment in a common desire, what Aristotle called philia, and which would then form the basis of a new type of economic investment.

Between the absolute urgency which obviously imposes the imperative of salvaging the present situation and of avoiding the passage from a global economic crisis to a global political crisis that might yet unleash military conflicts of global dimensions and the absolute necessity that consists in producing a potential future in the form of a political and social will capable of making a break with the present situation there is clearly a contradiction. Such a contradiction is characteristic of what happens to a dynamic system (in this case, the industrial system and the global capitalist system) once it has begun to mutate.

This question is political as much as it is economic. It is a question of political economy, a matter of knowing in what precisely this mutation consists, and to what political, but also industrial, choices it leads. It is a matter of knowing what new industrial politics is required.

Only such a response is capable of simultaneously dealing with the question of what urgent and immediate steps are necessary in order to salvage the industrial system, and with the question of how such steps must be inscribed within an economic and political mutation amounting to a revolution – if it is true that when a model has run its course, then its transformation, through which alone it can avoid total destruction, constitutes a revolution.

Bernard Stiegler taught himself philosophy while imprisoned for armed robbery between 1978 and 1983. He has since become a leading French philosopher of technology. This article was adapted from his recent book, For a New Critique of Political Economy.

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Page 6 of 9

NewAtlantis66

WE LOST OUR WAY
By Dan P. Davison

In ancient times of glory, an era hardly known
The race and people flourished, Atlantis’ power was shown
They spanned the super-consciousness, with ease abundance grew
But in this state of opulence, it was gathered for a few

Those who were chosen stewards, forgot to understand,
We’re all Divinely-Human, with one Grace in each hand,
All are blessed in union, the balanced right to live,
The need to name who prospers, was never ours to give.

The Sovereign Soul of everyone, who draws a breath on earth,
Must always be empowered; no one can state their worth,
The need for Power and Influence, soon took some to the top,
To justify corruption; “Power-Over”, not “Power-Of”.

Although great minds and science, allowed the poor and weak,
To be accused of uselessness, and not allowed to speak
One day a Child was crying, in hunger, cold alone,
And Mother Earth decided, the end must now be shown.

And as this child was crying, the earth convulsed in pain,
The rich and poor all vanished, to start the world again,
A few were spared like magic, to love and live in joy,
Small hamlets were made Heaven, which no one could destroy.

Each breath of each and all, denotes the Sovereign Soul,
The God and Human consciousness, a right which is the whole,
Of all without a question, what human can decide?
The lies and arrogance of some had caused this great divide.

We read about Great Nations, and glorious empires built,
And now we imitate this past, to grow, to thrive, to wilt,
The Mayans, ancient China, great Empires touched the land,
In each and every dynasty, their ashes joined the sand.

The rise and fall of Britain, and African States of Reign,
The Romans and the Byzantine, they all succumbed the same,
Today we face this self-same time, in global history,
We blame the poor and weak, and worthless they should be.

“They must have something wrong with them, for God to hate them too”,
We medicate our conscience, consumption gets us through.
“We all are created equal” is just a worthless phrase
If any have possessions, we elevate with praise.

My friend, let’s face the music, the party now must end,
WE LOST OUR WAY yet once again, our love can only mend,
The meek are those who know themselves, are honest with their hearts,
And can’t find wrong in anyone, that’s how the new world starts.

We have but just a little time, to stop and look inside,
If malice, hate, entitlement has drugged our minds with pride,
It’s best we take a second look, at a child most filled with pain,
And join that heart with passion; it’s time to stop the blame.

We likely passed the tipping point, adjustments will abound,
Mother Earth has kindly questioned, “Where can great love be found”?
A Child will lead them gently, to a butterfly or frog,
WE LOST OUR WAY as adults, our pride has caused the fog.

Today its right to listen, be grateful for each thing,
And celebrate all humankind, and let the nations sing,
And now a Moral Explosion will break away the pain,
And then a few bring back anew, a Heaven once again.

By Dan P. Davison November 25, 2011

NewAtlantis66

WE LOST OUR WAY
By Dan P. Davison

In ancient times of glory, an era hardly known
The race and people flourished, Atlantis’ power was shown
They spanned the super-consciousness, with ease abundance grew
But in this state of opulence, it was gathered for a few

Those who were chosen stewards, forgot to understand,
We’re all Divinely-Human, with one Grace in each hand,
All are blessed in union, the balanced right to live,
The need to name who prospers, was never ours to give.

The Sovereign Soul of everyone, who draws a breath on earth,
Must always be empowered; no one can state their worth,
The need for Power and Influence, soon took some to the top,
To justify corruption; “Power-Over”, not “Power-Of”.

Although great minds and science, allowed the poor and weak,
To be accused of uselessness, and not allowed to speak
One day a Child was crying, in hunger, cold alone,
And Mother Earth decided, the end must now be shown.

And as this child was crying, the earth convulsed in pain,
The rich and poor all vanished, to start the world again,
A few were spared like magic, to love and live in joy,
Small hamlets were made Heaven, which no one could destroy.

Each breath of each and all, denotes the Sovereign Soul,
The God and Human consciousness, a right which is the whole,
Of all without a question, what human can decide?
The lies and arrogance of some had caused this great divide.

We read about Great Nations, and glorious empires built,
And now we imitate this past, to grow, to thrive, to wilt,
The Mayans, ancient China, great Empires touched the land,
In each and every dynasty, their ashes joined the sand.

The rise and fall of Britain, and African States of Reign,
The Romans and the Byzantine, they all succumbed the same,
Today we face this self-same time, in global history,
We blame the poor and weak, and worthless they should be.

“They must have something wrong with them, for God to hate them too”,
We medicate our conscience, consumption gets us through.
“We all are created equal” is just a worthless phrase
If any have possessions, we elevate with praise.

My friend, let’s face the music, the party now must end,
WE LOST OUR WAY yet once again, our love can only mend,
The meek are those who know themselves, are honest with their hearts,
And can’t find wrong in anyone, that’s how the new world starts.

We have but just a little time, to stop and look inside,
If malice, hate, entitlement has drugged our minds with pride,
It’s best we take a second look, at a child most filled with pain,
And join that heart with passion; it’s time to stop the blame.

We likely passed the tipping point, adjustments will abound,
Mother Earth has kindly questioned, “Where can great love be found”?
A Child will lead them gently, to a butterfly or frog,
WE LOST OUR WAY as adults, our pride has caused the fog.

Today its right to listen, be grateful for each thing,
And celebrate all humankind, and let the nations sing,
And now a Moral Explosion will break away the pain,
And then a few bring back anew, a Heaven once again.

By Dan P. Davison November 25, 2011

Anonymous

"We’re all Divinely-Human, with one Grace in each hand,
All are blessed in union, the balanced right to live,
The need to name who prospers, was never ours to give."

Wow very poetic... Yet we slaughter animals and eat their flesh for sustenance. Your story is fairy tail bullshit.

Anonymous

"We’re all Divinely-Human, with one Grace in each hand,
All are blessed in union, the balanced right to live,
The need to name who prospers, was never ours to give."

Wow very poetic... Yet we slaughter animals and eat their flesh for sustenance. Your story is fairy tail bullshit.

Anonymous

If only things were so simple.
If only the death of an animal, can sum this beautiful piece of words,
That someone whom I don't know at all wrote
But that animal dies, it dies. Slaughter is quite alright if you think about it
Nice
Short
But you, and me, we do not get slaughtered yet tortured,
Your being tortured,
Through your ability to never be satisfied,
Slaughter sounds sweet even, maybe what we deserve,
These animals you revere, do they have sacredness? What is your "religion"
Does the slaughter of animals make you squirm? Does the thought of a paradigm shift make you sick?

Anonymous

If only things were so simple.
If only the death of an animal, can sum this beautiful piece of words,
That someone whom I don't know at all wrote
But that animal dies, it dies. Slaughter is quite alright if you think about it
Nice
Short
But you, and me, we do not get slaughtered yet tortured,
Your being tortured,
Through your ability to never be satisfied,
Slaughter sounds sweet even, maybe what we deserve,
These animals you revere, do they have sacredness? What is your "religion"
Does the slaughter of animals make you squirm? Does the thought of a paradigm shift make you sick?

Anonymous

I agree with the author when he states that the system is broken, and that leveraged stimulus to promote more mindless consumption is not going to get us anywhere. Watching the EU slowmotion trainwreck is evidence enough. The key is disengagement from all things corporate: governments, wars, media, food, consumer products, banking, money etc... We must end the matrix. Here is an article that lays out why and how to deal with it. The Infomocracy Dilemma: Revolution or Disengagement?

Anonymous

I agree with the author when he states that the system is broken, and that leveraged stimulus to promote more mindless consumption is not going to get us anywhere. Watching the EU slowmotion trainwreck is evidence enough. The key is disengagement from all things corporate: governments, wars, media, food, consumer products, banking, money etc... We must end the matrix. Here is an article that lays out why and how to deal with it. The Infomocracy Dilemma: Revolution or Disengagement?

Anonymous

BLAH, BLAH, BLAH! So much waffle and bafflgab. What about some ACTUAL suggestions detailing how this transformation will take place and what this brave new word will look like for everyday working stiffs and their families. I don't think that the Great Unwashed, i.e. the real 99% of the population want to live in tents in the wild and forage for food. What are you suggesting?

Anonymous

BLAH, BLAH, BLAH! So much waffle and bafflgab. What about some ACTUAL suggestions detailing how this transformation will take place and what this brave new word will look like for everyday working stiffs and their families. I don't think that the Great Unwashed, i.e. the real 99% of the population want to live in tents in the wild and forage for food. What are you suggesting?

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