The Problem with Consumer Choice Liberalism

Happy Superbowl, y’all. Believe it or not, I’ll be joining in the national holy day. I might not be a member of the faithful, but I do enjoy good company and good beer.

In the meantime, I’m sneaking in one more political intervention…

I’ve seen this video passed around for about a year now. It’s entertaining enough, and it definitely points to a real propensity for social awareness to function as an oppressive killjoy. But I think it also exposes some of the blind-spots in what can best be described as our prevailing “lifestyle liberalism.”

First off, it’s interesting how the fear of being deemed a “bad person” seems to crowd out any interest in whether or not this or that boycotting act proves efficacious or not in the larger scheme of things. While boycotting certainly has a role to play in mass movements centred on reformist or revolutionary change, the fact of the matter is that most personal boycotts don’t have much to show for it. For those of us not just concerned about social acceptance, this is something worth considering.

Secondly, I often hear people dismiss street activism, community organizing, policy debate, or electoral engagement as unduly exhausting, demanding, and outdated. Putting aside the fact that these forms of collective action often prove more effective, in the long haul, than investments in consumer choice liberalism, it’s also the case that they save a whole lot of exhaustion and frustration at the more immediate plane as well. One of the reasons it’s “socially unacceptable to do anything anywhere” in 21st-century America is because we’ve made it this way. We’ve allowed the powerful to surround our everyday lives in shit, and now we’re lamenting how tiresome it’s become to spend every minute of every day dodging one shit puddle after another. But dodging shit puddles doesn’t get rid of the shit. Only getting rid of the shit gets rid of the shit. And that, my friends, requires the hard work of collective action, whether or not this (in turn) requires deploying a MacBook Air or an iPhone along the way.

 

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