October 21, 2012

A "modern iteration of the Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism"

This is just an odd bit of something plucked from the Internet torrent that goes pouring by my porch. Link from Instapundit. I post it because it echoes many of my thoughts. "Narcissism that results from the focus on personal gratification" sounds a lot like the nihilism that I go on about. And it is the Information Age that has unleashed it--the Industrial Age with its strong propensity for stability helped to reinforce and preserve traditional faiths and habits of mind, though they were slowly eroding all the while. Once the Info Age hit it was Katie bar the door!

Charles Hugh Smith, Narcissism, Consumerism and the End of Growth:

...In the modern iteration of the Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism, the narcissism that results from the focus on personal gratification via consumption cripples the person in the workplace. Ironically, the flattening of corporate management and the demands for higher interpersonal skillsets has eroded the security provided by the strict hierarchy of previous eras.

Instead of working less and doing easier work--the implicit promise of "endless growth"-- the work is becoming more challenging and insecure even as compensation declines.

If there is any personality that is unsuited for the "New Normal" workplace, it is the narcissistic consumer--the very type of person that our consumption-dependent economy creates, nurtures and demands. That is the new Cultural Contradiction of Capitalism.

"Personal gratification" is the driver of narcissism and consumerism, which are two sides of the same coin. Consumerist marketing glorifies the "projected self" as the "true self," encouraging self-absorption even as it erodes authentic identity, self-esteem and the resilience which enables emotional growth--the essential characteristic of adulthood.

Personal gratification is of a piece with self-absorption, fragile self-esteem and an identity that is overly dependent on consumerist signifiers and the approval of others.

No wonder Japan's "lost generations" are lost: not only are expectations of secure, high-income jobs diminished, the work is more demanding and the security and pay are too low to support the consumerist lifestyle that society has implicitly promised everyone who goes to college and works hard as a birthright....

And this piece is perfectly appropriate as one of my Sunday thingies. Jesus taught that that "focus on personal gratification " was exactly the wrong path to take. And in the Information Age it's going to be ten times as bad. Because navigation is at least ten times as difficult. To try to guide yourself while looking at yourself is folly. If you fill your "self" with consumer rubbish.... Oh brother.

...Anyone who thinks he already has it all, so he can take what he wants and center everything on himself, is depriving himself of giving what he otherwise could. Man is not there to make himself, but to respond to demands made upon him. We all stand in a great arena of history, and are dependent on each other. A man ought not, therefore, just to figure out what he would like, but to ask what he can do and how he can help. Then he will see that fulfillment does not lie in comfort, ease, and following ones inclinations, but precisely in allowing demands to be made upon you, in taking the harder path. Everything else turns out somehow boring anyway. Only the man who "risks the fire", who recognizes a calling within himself, a vocation, an ideal he must satisfy, who takes on real responsibility, will find fulfillment. As we have said, it is not in taking, not on the path of comfort, that we become rich, but only in giving.
-- Josef Cardinal Ratzinger
Posted by John Weidner at October 21, 2012 1:58 PM
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