The Consumer Ethics Book List

 
The McDonaldization of Society: An Investigation into the Changing Character of Contemporary Social Life

The fast-food business, most notably Mcdonalds, revolutionised not only the restaurant business but also American society and ultimately, the world. Using the model of Mcdonalds, the author draws on the theories of Weber to produce a social critique.

 

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

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.

 

Life Inc: How Corporatism Conquered the World, and How We Can Take It Back

Rushkoff (Nothing Sacred) offers a shrill condemnation of how corporate culture has disconnected human beings from each other. An engaging history of commerce and corporatism devolves into an extended philippic on how increasing personal wealth and the rise of nuclear families constituted a failure of community—whose services are now provided by products and professionals. While he makes some good points—for instance, about how some laws are now written to favor the rights of corporations above the rights of human beings, and the phenomenon of pro-wealth spirituality as espoused by The Secret, Creflo Dollar and Joel Osteen—he skews wildly off-course lamenting how œbasic human activity... has been systematically robbed of its naturally occurring support mechanisms by a landscape tilted toward the market's priorities. His unsupported and flawed assumption that societal interdependence is a natural or even preferable state for all people, everywhere, his disdain for filthy lucre and joyless recasting of independence as selfishness will leave readers weary long before the end.

 

Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture

Atlantic correspondent Shell (The Hungry Gene) tackles more than just discount culture in this wide-ranging book that argues that the American drive toward bargain-hunting and low-price goods has a hidden cost in lower wages for workers and reduced quality of goods for consumers. After a dry examination of the history of the American retail industry, the author examines the current industrial and political forces shaping how and what we buy. In the book's most involving passages, Shell deftly analyzes the psychology of pricing and demonstrates how retailers manipulate subconscious bargain triggers that affect even the most knowing consumers. The author urges shoppers to consider spending more and buying locally, but acknowledges the inevitability of globalization and the continuation of trends toward efficient, cost-effective production. The optimistic call to action that concludes the book feels hollow, given the evidence that precedes it. If Shell illuminates with sharp intelligence and a colloquial style the downside of buying Chinese garlic or farm-raised shrimp, nothing demonstrates how consumers, on a mass scale, could seek out an alternative or why they would choose to do so. (July)



Buying In: What We Buy and Who We Are

Walker takes a close look at past and present consumerism in the United States, positing that older forms of advertising are no longer successful. In their place, the trend has shifted to what the author calls "murketing," a mix of "murky" and "marketing." He argues that instead of being manipulated by marketing, consumers are using it to their advantage; and instead of being shaped by products, consumers are using them to express individual identity and social outlook. Told from the perspectives of both consumers and marketers, the book entwines historical fact, commentary from experts in the field, and pop-culture examples drawn from brand names such as Timberland, Sanrio, Apple, and Nike. It also incorporates conversations with CEOs of companies like American Apparel as well as start-up projects from the skateboarding and music industries. Walker examines all aspects of "murketing," including ethics, emerging technology, and commercialization versus underground movements. This book is both accessible and relevant to teens, with many of the examples being pulled from Generations Y and Z. It will be useful to those interested in business, advertising, or social trends.—Kelliann Bogan, Colby-Sawyer College, New London, NH

 

Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft o...

Was the Boston Tea Party the first WTO-style protest against transnational corporations? Did Supreme Court sell out America's citizens in the nineteenth century, with consequences lasting to this day? Is there a way for American citizens to recover democracy of, by, and for the people?

Thom Hartmann takes on these most difficult questions and tells a startling story that will forever change your understanding of American history. He begins by uncovering an original eyewitness account of the Boston Tea Party and demonstrates that it was provoked not by "taxation without representation" as is commonly suggested but by the specific actions of the East India Company, which represented the commericial interests of the British elite.

Hartmann then describes the history of the Fourteenth Amendment--created at the end of the Civil War to grant basic rights to freed slaves--and how it has been used by lawyers representing corporate interests to extend additional rights to businesses far more frequently than to freed slaves. Prior to 1886, corporations were referred to in U.S. law as "artificial persons." but in 1886, after a series of cases brought by lawyers representing the expanding railroad interests, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations were "persons" and entitled to the same rights granted to people under the Bill of Rights. Since this ruling, America has lost the legal structures that allowed for people to control corporate behavior.

As a result, the largest transnational corporations fill a role today that has historically been filled by kings. They control most of the world's wealth and exert power over the lives of most of the world's citizens. Their CEOs are unapproachable and live lives of nearly unimaginable wealth and luxury. They've become the rudder that steers the ship of much human experience, and they're steering it by their prime value--growth and profit and any expense--a value that has become destructive for life on Earth. This new feudalism was not what our Founders--Federalists and Democratic Republicans alike--envisioned for America.

It's time for "we, the people" to take back our lives. Hartmann proposes specific legal remedies that could truly save the world from political, economic, and ecological disaster.

Tags: books, captialism, consumer ethics, consumerism, consumption, economy, money, social justice, trade

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Replies to This Discussion

I listened to Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture some time ago, and I have to highly recommend it. A very important book. 

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