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Consumerism

Consumerism

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01/31/2011

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Contemporary Situation: Globalisation, Postmodernity, and Consumerism

Michael Goheen IDIS 102, TWU

Which foundation will you build your life on?
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who builds his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash (Matt.7.24ff.)

Overview of lectures on Western Story and Worldview

First: Examined modern humanism as worldview
• • • • Dewey’s ‘confession’ Two diagrams Way we label historical eras Brief definition

Last time: Looked at western story and development of modern humanism Today: Examine postmodern humanist challenge and global spread of modern humanism

Our Contemporary Situation
Modern story: Faith in science and technology to enable us to progress toward a better world  Three mutually reinforcing trends:

• Globalisation: Global spread of modern (liberal) story around world • Postmodernity: Challenge to the modern (liberal) story in West • Growth of consumerism

First trend Globalisation: Global spread of modern, liberal, humanist story

20 Century Background
th

20th Century: Bipolar—Two forms of Enlightenment Humanism (Liberalism in US +, Communism in USSR +)

Two Forms of Enlightenment
Eurocentric Globalizing
Humanism
Autonomous Science Reason Technology (Non-human) Rational organization of society (Human)
! !

New world
! ! ! ! ! !

Democracy/ Communism Free enterprise/ Command economy/

Material prosperity Justice Truth Happiness Freedom OR Equality

20 Century Background
th

20th Century: Bipolar—Two forms of Enlightenment Humanism (Liberalism in US, Communism in USSR)  Fall of Communism (1989)  Global spread of liberalism

Why is it important to understand globalization?
The reality of our world is not the end of grand narratives, but the increasing dominance of the narrative of economic globalization. . . . This is the new imperialism . . . (Richard Bauckham)

Economic globalization is the greatest challenge that the Christian mission faces (Rene Padilla).

Enlightenment Vision: Seeds of Economic Globalization
       

Progress Paradise images Material prosperity Reached by reason Discerning natural laws Translated into technology Society reorganized according to reason Exaggerated place of economics

Late Modern Story
Globalization is ‘a form or method of modernization on a global scale.’ ‘Possibly never before has modernity received higher expression than in today’s process of globalization.’ ‘ . . . the word “modern” is not neutral; it cannot be divorced from a specific view of life, humanity, the world, and ultimate meaning.’ - Bob Goudzwaard

Global Story?
Progress: Spread this vision around world so whole world can move toward this goal  Science: Scientific global community and western educational institutions  Technology: Information technology and global connectivity  Economism: Global economy

Brief Evaluation
Good: Much in western culture is beneficial (e.g., rights, science, technology, democracy, etc.)  Evil: Idolatry of economy producing environmental destruction and growing gap between rich and poor

Second trend Postmodernity: Challenge to modern, liberal, humanist story

Breakdown of Modernity Critical Factors in Dillusionment

Environmental destruction

If the whole world lived at the level of North Americans… … the world’s resources would last about ten years

Breakdown of Modernity Critical Factors in Dillusionment
Environmental destruction  Growing poverty

At the beginning of the development decades (1960) the world’s richest 1 billion were 30 x richer than the world’s poorest 1 billion. At the end of the development decades (1990) the world’s richest 1 billion were 60 x richer than the poorest 1 billion

Breakdown of Modernity Critical Factors in Dillusionment
Environmental destruction  Growing poverty  Nuclear threat  Economic problems  Psychological, social disorder

Don’t believe modern stories!
“Simplifying to the extreme, I define postmodern as incredulity toward metanarratives.”
-J. F.Lyotard

Postmodernity: Challenge to Modern Humanist Story

Challenge to optimism

Challenge to Optimism
Maybe human being are not so good  Maybe we aren’t moving toward a better world

Postmodernity: Challenge to Modern Humanist Story
Challenge to optimism of story  Challenge to centrality of reason

Non-rational Dimensions of Humanity Pushed Down and Springing Back
Body  Emotions  Senses  Subconscious  Desire, passion  Religious  Imagination  Instinct, intuition

Postmodernity: Challenge to Modern Humanist Story
Challenge  Challenge  Challenge

to to to

optimism centrality of reason objectivity of knowledge

Neutral Reason?
Subjective factors affecting knowledge:
Social -Tradition -Community -Language -Culture -History -Faith Personal -Feelings -Imagination -Subconscious -Gender -Class -Race

Postmodernity: Challenge to Modern Humanist Story
Challenge to optimism  Challenge to centrality of reason  Challenge to objectivity of knowledge  Challenge to injustice created by modern story

Injustice created by modern story
Toward minorities with different stories (gender, class, sexual preference, ethnic group, religion)  Toward third world cultures  Toward poor  Toward environment

Postmodernity: Challenge to Modern Humanist Story
   

Challenge Challenge Challenge Challenge story Challenge

to optimism to centrality of reason to objectivity of knowledge to injustice created by modern to secularism

Religious smorgasbord/pluralism: . . . New age, psychics, astrology, gnostic religions, eastern and native spirituality, occult, etc...

Brief Evaluation of Postmodernity

Recovering insights that have been lost in modern story . . . E.g.,
• Non-rational aspects of human beings • Factors affect knowledge • Goodness of diversity and plurality

Emergence of new dangerous idols . . . E.g.,
• Pluralism • Relativism

Third Trend Growth of Consumer Society

Consumerism: Central to Western Life
“The postmodern is rightly associated with a society where consumer lifestyles and mass consumption dominate the waking lives of its members.” (David Lyon) “From rock music to tourism to television and even education, advertising imperatives and consumer demand are no longer for goods, but for experiences.” (Stephen Connor)

Consumerism and Globalization

Related to globalization: Western side of economic globalization
• Economic structures have enriched West at expense of non-West

Consumerism and Postmodernity
Related to globalization: Western side of economic globalization  Related to postmodernity

• Consumption fills void created by loss of story

Consumerism as “Our Story”
If there is an overarching metanarrative that purports to explain reality in the late 20th century, it is surely the metanarrative of the free-market economy. In the beginning of this metanarrative is the self-made, selfsufficient human being. At the end of this narrative is the big house, the big car, the expensive clothes. In the middle is the struggle for success, the greed, the gettingand-spending in a world in which there is no such thing as a free lunch. Most of us have made this so thoroughly ‘our story’ that we are hardly aware of its influence. (Susan White)

The Religion of Our Day?
Consumerism appears to have become part and parcel of the very fabric of modern life. . . . And the parallel with religion is not an accidental one. Consumerism is ubiquitous and ephemeral. It is arguably the religion of the late twentieth century. (Miles)

Sacred order?
“. . . we cannot fully appreciate the depths of materialism unless we understand how economic behavior supplies us with meaning, purpose, and a sense of the sacred order.” (Roberth Wuthnow) “The accumulation of wealth is one of the great idols of our day and huge amounts of energy are spent every day in seeking meaning through great and greater accumulation of wealth and possessions.” (Craig Bartholomew)

Christian Community in Contemporary World
Modern story is not working  Globalization is creating massive injustice  Postmodernity offers no meaningful story  How can Christian community live in healing way?

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