I’m used to critiquing the use of consumerism to generate distinction — where I am trying to consume something that makes me feel unique and special, with some sort of advanced elite taste. This critique boils down to a skeptical view of individualism. 

But it is probably more common and possibly more damaging when consumerism facilitates the pleasures of “normality” and conformity that are based on more tacit exclusions — on exclusions that I’ve made invisible to myself. 

Eating cultural comfort food is not the worst thing in the world, but there is always a danger of consuming consensus rather than culture — of taking comfort in an implied ersatz universality of some taste culture I am seeking to participate in, rather than in the thing itself. (Of course, I am always trying to shield myself from the fact that there is no “thing in itself.”)

This transforms the consumption into a kind of production, not of personal status (as with consuming for uniqueness) but of social compliance — it produces the insistence that everyone fall in line with the same “interpretive horizon” I’ve bought into. It produces ideological coercion. Comfort in these contexts becomes zero-sum; my comfort comes at the expense of others’; my comfort is predicated on ignoring other people’s points of view. That is ultimately cold comfort.

Hello From the Same Side


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