"Powerful and disturbing. No one who cares about the future of our public life can afford to ignore this book." —Jackson Lears
A powerful sequel to Benjamin R. Barber's best-selling Jihad vs. McWorld, Consumed offers a vivid portrait of an overproducing global economy that targets children as consumers in a market where there are never enough shoppers and where the primary goal is no longer to manufacture goods but needs. To explain how and why this has come about, Barber brings together extensive empirical research with an original theoretical framework for understanding our contemporary predicament. He asserts that in place of the Protestant ethic once associated with capitalism—encouraging self-restraint, preparing for the future, protecting and self-sacrificing for children and community, and other characteristics of adulthood—we are constantly being seduced into an "infantilist" ethic of consumption.
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.