Consumer culture--our preoccupation with acquiring material objects--has long been blamed for a host of social, spiritual, and, more recently, environmental ills. In this course, we will examine both the content and rhetoric of various criticisms of consumer culture--in philosophy, economics, and documentary film, among others.
In addition, we will analyze texts that offer potential solutions--models for a "postconsumer" world. These solutions include minimalism, ethical or conscious consumerism, DIY and artisan culture, homesteading, and the "slow" movement. We will look not only at what these movements offer, but also the representation and rhetoric used to advocate for them.
We will also complete a number of exercises designed to help us more closely examine our own experience of materiality, and discuss ways in which we might map a more constructive relationship to the material world.
Course material will include readings from Henry David Thoreau's Walden, Vance Packard's The Waste Makers, and Juliet Schor's True Wealth, and the documentaries The True Cost and The Story of Stuff.