Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole

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Overview

"Powerful and disturbing. No one who cares about the future of our public life can afford to ignore this book."—Jackson Lears
A powerful sequel to Benjamin R. Barber's best-selling Jihad vs. McWorld, Consumed offers a vivid portrait of an overproducing global economy that targets children as consumers in a market where there are never enough shoppers and where the primary goal is no longer to manufacture goods but needs. To explain how and why this has come about, Barber brings together extensive empirical ...

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Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole

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Overview

"Powerful and disturbing. No one who cares about the future of our public life can afford to ignore this book."—Jackson Lears
A powerful sequel to Benjamin R. Barber's best-selling Jihad vs. McWorld, Consumed offers a vivid portrait of an overproducing global economy that targets children as consumers in a market where there are never enough shoppers and where the primary goal is no longer to manufacture goods but needs. To explain how and why this has come about, Barber brings together extensive empirical research with an original theoretical framework for understanding our contemporary predicament. He asserts that in place of the Protestant ethic once associated with capitalism—encouraging self-restraint, preparing for the future, protecting and self-sacrificing for children and community, and other characteristics of adulthood—we are constantly being seduced into an "infantilist" ethic of consumption.

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Editorial Reviews

Pamela Paul
With his latest book, Barber, a political theorist at the University of Maryland, returns to familiar territory. But if Jihad provided an answer to the ubiquitous post-9/11 question “Why do they hate us?,” the question behind Consumed seems to be “Who wouldn’t?”Barber, for one, is put off by much of what global capitalism has wrought. Hollywood movies are cartoonish and trashy; kids reared on video games and fast food miss out on childhood’s meaningful pleasures; life at the mall is soulless; much of popular culture is dreck. How all this came about takes up the bulk of his book.
— The New York Times
Barry Schwartz
Barber is a distinguished political theorist who for years has been writing about the deterioration of "civil society" and what must be done to reclaim it. Many others have criticized our obsession with materialism and consumption, a theme he explored in Jihad vs. McWorld, but Barber's aim is not to be a scold. The Reagan revolution convinced us that turning the market loose would be good economics and good politics. Barber, in contrast, argues that "Once upon a time, capitalism was allied with virtues that also contributed at least marginally to democracy, responsibility, and citizenship. Today it is allied with vices which -- although they serve consumerism -- undermine democracy, responsibility, and citizenship." In other words, in the modern era, it's not so much democracy and capitalism as it is democracy or capitalism.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Barber returns to the clashing models of civilization of his earlier Jihad vs. McWorld, focusing this time on the expanding global culture of market forces he claims will destory not only democracy but even capitalism, if left unchecked. He warns of a totalitarian "ethos of induced childishness" that not only seeks to turn the young into aggressive consumers but to arrest the psychological development of adults as well, "freeing" them to indulge in puerile and narcissistic purchases based on "stupid" brand loyalties. The increasing drive toward privatization compounds the problem, generating a "civic schizophrenia" where everybody wants service but nobody wants to serve. His complaint is so broad that it occasionally edges into crankiness, as he blames infantilization for ruining everything from Hollywood movies to NBA basketball; even other liberal cultural commentators, especially Steven Johnson (Everything Bad Is Good for You), come in for much criticism. Barber recognizes that the "Jihadist" rejection of consumer culture is equally undemocratic, but still believes the system can be changed from within, citing the corporate responsibility movement and activist boycotts. His dense analysis can be a tough slog in spots, but the provocative attacks on capitalism's excesses will resonate with many. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Capitalism wants more and more shoppers, and its final goal is not to give us what we want but to make us want what it gives us. Consuming arguments from the author of Jihad vs. McWorld; with a four-city tour. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Barber, the prophetic author of Jihad vs. McWorld (1995), delivers a frightening analysis of the way consumerism is vitiating shoppers in the United States and around the world. Once upon a time, Americans were obsessed with being productive; now, we're obsessed with consuming. The consumerism that has infected society, Barber charges, both fosters and requires an "enduring childishness." Corporations vie for ever younger consumers, and marketers understand that in order to keep people buying things they don't need, potential consumers must be kept in a state of childishness that emphasizes play, impulse and entitlement over work, deliberation and responsibility. Some of Barber's analysis feels a little banal-as when he points out that people buy goods hawked by celebrities because purchasers believe that Michael Jordan-endorsed shoes will make them like Jordan. But most of his thinking is fresh. One of the problems of consumerism, to which Barber devotes an entire chapter, is that it homogenizes an otherwise diverse population. He speaks of a kind of "market totalism," if not totalitarianism, in which the consumer market is addictive, ubiquitous, omnipresent, self-replicating and self-justifying. But this is not an anti-capitalist screed. Rather, much of it is a history lesson. The culture of capitalism, Barber explains, has changed. In an earlier century, capitalism met the "real needs of real people," and it fostered both freedom and citizenship. Today, capitalism meets only the needs of corporations looking to make a buck. Yet capitalism need not lead to unchecked consumerism. It can be made to promote equality, and not just profit. Barber concludes with a call to temper capitalismand renew a sense of civic belonging-not just nationally, but globally. Perhaps his next book will explain how we might heed that urgent calling. Significant work.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393049619
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/19/2007
  • Pages: 406
  • Product dimensions: 6.54 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.28 (d)

Meet the Author

Internationally renowned political theorist Benjamin R. Barber is the Kekst Professor of Civil Society at the University of Maryland and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Demos in New York City, where he lives.

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Table of Contents


Acknowledgments     ix
The Birth of Consumers
Capitalism Triumphant and the Infantilist Ethos     3
From Protestantism to Puerility     38
The Eclipse of Citizens
Infantilizing Consumers: The Coming of Kidults     81
Privatizing Citizens: The Making of Civic Schizophrenia     116
Branding Identities: The Loss of Meaning     166
Totalizing Society: The End of Diversity     213
The Fate of Citizens
Resisting Consumerism: Can Capitalism Cure Itself?     257
Overcoming Civic Schizophrenia: Restoring Citizenship in a World of Interdependence     291
Notes     341
Index     383
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2007

    Literary Spinach, or your least favorite nutritious vegetable

    It doesn't surprise me that so many reviews I see of this book rate low. Most Americans, and I'm no different are reluctant to consider alternative philosophies on capitalism or marketing. Benjamin Barber is not unlike all his predecessors. Since the beginning of recorded time every generation has had its outspoken critics who try to claim that the next generation is ¿going to hell in a hand basket.¿ I personally don¿t believe we¿ve done all that bad. Barber relies on the ideas of Foucault, Roseau and de Tocqueville and more modern philosopher, citing them readily. I¿ll admit, I struggled with the first half of the book and I would say that up to that point the arguments are poorly supported. This being said, the last chapters of the book reveal a deep insight and yes, some philosophical name dropping. But if this book stimulates a some deep thinking on the subject, I would consider it successful.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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