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The International Encyclopedia of Media Studies, 7 Volume Set by Fabienne Darling-Wolf, Radhika Parameswaran, Erica Scharrer, Vicki Mayer, Sharon Mazzarella, Kelly Gates, John Nerone, Angharad N. Valdivia

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27

The Dead-End of Consumerism

The Role of the Media and Cultural Industries

Justin Lewis

ABSTRACT

In this chapter, Justin Lewis argues that twenty-first-century consumer capitalism is no longer an effective model for human progress. In developed countries, consumer capitalism can no longer deliver improvements in quality of life, is fraught with economic contradictions, and will make the planet considerably less habitable. How might we begin to address these issues and imagine a better world? Lewis focuses on three ways in which the contemporary cultural industries keep us conceptually bound to a consumerist credo. First, the media and communications industries have come to epitomize the notion of built-in obsolescence based on a perpetual consumerism. Second, our most dominant cultural industry, advertising, provides a cultural environment that makes it hard to imagine a way of being outside consumerism. Third, the capacity of journalism to question current orthodoxy is constrained by a focus on “disposable news,” displacing the more democratic function of journalism.

We are, in a sense, living in the future. Not our future, but at the beginning of a century that has been imagined and reimagined countless times over the last hundred years. Our predecessors would have been enthralled by possibilities we now take for granted: the revolution in information, communication, and cultural technologies has made what once seemed magical part of everyday life.

And yet the technology ...

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