Raven Symoné

Raven Symoné

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Consumed by Consumed

Benjamin Barber's Consumed is a tale of capitalism: the complete distaste of the commercial culture 

that it has created and its tendency to reduce people, to mere consumers. He takes an almost offense 

towards privatization in his argument that it gives us what we want, but does not give us what we 

"want to want", which is a democracy. He explains that capitalism "...seems quite literally to be 

consuming itself, leaving democracy in peril and the fate of citizens uncertain" (Barber 89). With this, 

he breaks society into two spheres: the child and adult cultures. Children are completely engulfed by 

brand: “They get up in the morning, put on their Levi’s and Nikes, grab their caps, backpacks, and

Sony personal CD players, and head for school" (Barber 52). Their daily lives are so constantly

 bombarded by brands that, in a way, they become the brand itself. On the other hand, adult culture, 

Barber explains, has completely withdrawn from the "we", the public sphere, and focused itself 

completely on the individual. Barber insists that whatever the public sector "claims" to be able to do, 

the private sector can do more efficiently and appealingly. Barber revolves all of this around one idea: 

the complete infantilization of our culture and society, as people are portraying children, so easily 

convinced and persuaded; an "I want it now!" culture. Yes, all of Barber's arguments are completel

valid. He points out some accurate and frightening points that completely identify the problems in our

 society today. But, what Barber fails to do is be direct: something almost crucial in a complex piece 

like this. Throughout the book, Barber never fails to go on complete tangents, straying from his initial

 argument: the infantilization of our society. The page-long tangents on Shaquille O'Neal and the 

Sims completely detract from his argument, making his work extremely unfocused. Usually I finish a 

book with a central idea in my mind, a simple idea that the author tried to get across. With Barber, my 

mind was all over the place. I had to go back, re-read, and completely translate too many parts of this 

book. Overall, Barber has some pretty compelling points: the idea of our society being completely

 turned into a bunch of children running around, buying whatever they please and mesmerized by 

industry. But, his unfocused structure, demonstrated too many times throughout the book, makes 

Consumed one unpleasant read. 

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