Social Unconsciousness

Were these issues the only ones, the world’s people might still survive to criticize the system yet again. The business-state-media power complex, led by finance capital and driven by the quest for superprofits and fantastic incomes, cannot be opposed with any degree of success except by social movements arising from an informed, enraged, and rational populace. There has to be a critical, rational, activist We-for-Us-to-save-the-world. Yet the other, popular side of finance capitalism is consumptive excess enabled by the cheap commodities that flood in from globalized production. The priority of social reproduction shifts from socializing people to become workers to socializing people to become consumers. A new type of human being is emerging, the consumptive person. The culture of overconsumption produces mass, popular apathy (I like, rather than I think). Overconsumption is a social addiction, a radical, selfish individualism that I characterize as the social unconscious. It is unconscious in that conscious awareness is missing, has not been constructed, has not been allowed to develop even from the interpretation of everyday experience (common sense), and it is social in that many people share similar characteristics. The culture of overconsumption is not so much a case of deliberately producing mass stupidity, although mass advertising comes close to a corporate conspiracy. It is more that the trivialization of everyday life produces unconsciousness. Utter trivialization gives rise to a new kind of soft, shallow, compliant personality encased in the kind of fat body that results from total absence of self-control—35.7 % of American adults are obese, as are 17 % of American children (Adult Obesity Facts, 2013). Reality is a show. Entertainment is all that is. Because every commodity must have a body to bear its message and because every service is energy-intensive, overconsumption, overproduction, and the concomitant overuse of resources create environmental risk for society as a whole.

Essentially, the ability to respond in a radical, collective, socially rational way— to control an activist, interventionist state democratically, for instance—has been consumed away in vast segments of the population living in the global centers of power. And the leading ideas produced by experts in the service of power are ideological diversions rather than means of collective rational intervention.

My conclusion is that the intersecting economic and environmental crises will continue ad infinitum because the existing hegemonic knowledge cannot guide effective social action.

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