Authenticity and alienation : a critique of consumerism
A quick appraisal of one's surroundings ought to provide ample evidence of the drastic transformation to which the life-world's content has been subjected. Following the industrial revolution, the global phenomenal field has been overrun by manufactured objects. The length of a room can hardly be paced without bumping into some or other object that requires for its functioning the observance and execution of some or other ceremony. Those who comply are rewarded with the satisfaction of a functional object; those who do not, on the other hand, cannot even switch the TV on. Switching on the TV, however, is not the problem. The problem is that the life-world, riddled with manufactured objects, is therefore also rife with the requirements of ceremony – ceremonies which, for the greater part, neither include nor require our interaction with others. The result is a life-world whose navigation demands that greater attention be given to objects than to people. In short, I argue that consumerism does little to advance our standards of living. The assumption, however, is that a higher standard of living, that is, a greater approximation of the truly good life, is not achieved by a mop that cleans itself, a fridge that reminds one to buy milk or a car with such an ornately decorated interior that it could easily have been the chambers of queen Elizabeth. The assumption, in the first place, is that the truly good life is one worth sharing. The assumption is that there is no point in sharing one's ideas with someone who already shares one's ideas to the letter. At the heart of it all is my belief that we are meant to be complementary beings, not mere duplicates, and that relation, true relation, depends on difference and contrast. The hypothesis, then, is that consumerism denies us precisely that. Central to this study, which is in essence a cultural critique, is the idea that a shared environment promotes shared perspectives and interpretations. The fewer ungoverned elements there are in a specific milieu, the greater the area of interpretive overlap among the members of a community is bound to be. In the first part of the study, article 1, I argue in favour of personal differentiation. Moreover, in it, I also tie differentiation to the possibility of leading an authentic life and engaging in meaningful relationships with others. In the second part, article 2, it is reasoned that consumerism, by virtue of confining humanity to a single quarry, dispenses with precisely such differentia as would ordinarily have enabled differentiation among people. And since both authenticity of being and meaningful relationships depend on differentiation, I then proceed to suggest that consumerism, through its distribution of a single class of objects and, therefore, its promotion of a single means of value appraisal, facilitates the alienation of people one from the other and even from themselves.
- Humanities