Permission to Consume

by Rob Horning

23 July 2010

 

In this interview of Andrew Potter (whose book, The Authenticity Hoax, I still really need to read), he makes an interesting point about what sort of rhetoric supplies us with the permission to consume. To put that it in a more jargony way, what sort of ideological climate is necessary to naturalize a consumerist orientation—make us see shopping quests and the accumulation of stuff as normal, inevitable personal goals?

Behavioral economics and marketing research explores some practical aspects of generating permission to consume. First of all, they acknowledge such reluctance exists, and that wants are not simply inherently infinite, as neoclassical economics assumes. That is, they accept that creating demand is an actual problem (sort of obvious, otherwise marketing as a discipline wouldn’t exist, but don’t tell that to a Say’s Law zealot). And then there are nitty-gritty behavior studies of the reluctance people have in pulling the trigger on purchases and how to overcome it, the sort of research Paco Underhill and other marketing gurus proselytize about—how to create the appropriate buying environment with music and positioning of goods and so on; how to counteract optional paralysis; how to weaken our psychological defenses to persuasion.

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