Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Book Review: Zygmunt Bauman and Consuming Life

I think this guy Zygmunt Bauman will be recognized as one of today's leading lights. He's doing great work on consumerism and the breakdown of social institutions and their replacements.

The nature of a consuming society (as opposed to our cultural language based on a production society) is not well understood. It has profound implications for self-identity and social relationships.

Here's my translation of Bauman's idea (I hope I got most of it right) in his book Consuming Life:

In a producing society, institutions tend to be large. You belonged to large groups that bestowed automatic identity.

Increases in productivity meant smaller institutions and less individual belonging to social institutions. Individuals were left to socially and psychology fend for themselves (incidentally leading people to the need to brand themselves). Without overarching, permament themes in society, social relationships are tentative and brief and identities are driven by the latest consumer good.

This is because modern communities are underlain by consumer goods.

Modern communities tend to be created by consumer technology (social media is an example), thereby rendering your participation in the modern world a function of economics (your ability to buy the technology). Those who will not or cannot participate will be left behind.

The take away for marketers is a deeper understanding of what motivates consumers and why.

Remember, if you truly want to excel, you have to understand the big picture.


Rabid Idealist said...

The takeaway for marketers? THE TAKEAWAY FOR MARKETERS? "(nowadays) social relationships are tentative and brief and identities are driven by the latest consumer good." Oh, and btw, some will be left behind in more important ways than simply leaving everybody's "identity" behind. This would be my takeaway.
Either way, I thank the Business Librarian for diplomatically pointing out another interesting tome to peruse.

Charles Allan said...

Ah, you read between the lines.