Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Theology of the God of Consumerism

With globalisation, there is a “global culture” that is slowly insinuating into the local cultures and at times supplants them. This global culture is not irreligious but brings along its own branding and mythology. The branding is named McDonaldisation. The new mythology includes what Neil Postman calls the “god of consumerism,” “god of technology,” and “god of Economic Utility” (1995 , 27-36). Each of these gods have their own theology.

The “god of consumerism” teaches through the media, the most powerful being television commercials.

Postman notes,

But the majority of important television commercials take the form of religious
parables organised around a coherent theology. Like all religious parables,
these commercials put forward a concept of sin, intimations of the way to
redemption, and a vision of Heaven. This will be obvious to those who have taken
to heart the Parable of the Person with Rotten Breath, the Parable of the Stupid
Investor, the Parable of the lost Traveller’s Checks, the Parable of the Man Who
Runs Through Airports, or most of the hundreds of others that are part of our
youth’s religious education (1995, 34)

This was written in 1995. Postman did foresee the “god of consumerism” working with the “god of technology” but may not imagine how true was his forecast. This partnership resulted in niche marketing, the rise of the Internet, the pervasive influence of computers, the DVD revolution, the virtual life (facebook, second life), and the prevalence of handphones as status symbols, multimedia communication devices, and entertainment centre.


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Anonymous alwyn said...

hmm...the subtitle of the book is 'Redefining the Value of School', but I couldn't see how it related (very much) with consumerism, technology, etc.

is the book about educational systems? new pedagogy? etc?

12:14 AM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

hi alwyn,

I think you will enjoy this books and other books by Neil Postman.

This book is about the current crisis in education in North America. His thesis is that schools today fail to provide their students with a transcendent, unifying narrative like it do for the past generations. Instead it offers false gods of economic unity, technology, consumerism, ethic separaticism and resentment.

1:26 AM  

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