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

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A piercing and vital look at how capitalism is consuming U.S. society.

An apt sequel to Benjamin R. Barber's best-selling Jihad vs. McWorld, Consumed offers a wrenching portrait of how adult consumers are infantilized in a global economy that overproduces goods and targets children as consumers in a market where there are never enough shoppers. Driven by a frantic imperative to sell, consumer capitalism specializes today in the manufacture not of goods but of needs.

This provocative culmination of Barber's lifelong study of democracy and capitalism shows how the infantilist ethos deprives society of responsible citizens and displaces public goods with private commodities. Traditional liberal democratic society is colonized by an all-pervasive market imperative. Public space is privatized. Identity is branded. Our world, homogenized. With brilliance and depth, Barber confronts the likely consequences for our children, our liberty, and our citizenship, and shows finally how citizens can resist and transcend the civic schizophrenia with which consumerism has infected them.

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Benjamin R. Barber is the Gershon and Carol Kekst Professor of Civil Society and Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland. He is an internationally renowned political theorist and lives in New York City.

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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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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