Monday, March 7, 2011
Standards of evaluation in a "consumer republic"
Throughout reading consumer republic I found myself agreeing with many of Cohen's observation. What it left me with was a profound desire for the rational world paradigm. Market segmentation allows specific appeals to such niche markets that, as Cohen points out, people begin feeling entitled and, in many ways, constrained by their own specific desires. While this may be liberating in a consumerist mindset, it is severely limiting in a sense of the civic. Engagement, when it becomes personalized, loses the very rationality that I desire. The fact of the matter is most issues of public policy made at the governmental level are created around the idea of effecting large masses of people. That level of impact rarely finds itself easily marketed to the individual consumerist level expected within the framework and cultural norm of market segmentation. It is how an issue like global warming, which has the potential to effect the world (global) becomes a niche issue that is argued only by those people who fit a particular segment of the population (environmentalists). At a more abstract level, it also helps explain how large political issues (the Iraq War, Health Care, Food Aid) can be ignored by many who are not "interested" in politics. The apathy that becomes the norm in a consumer driven model leaves me wondering, is it such a stretch to ask that people be able to hold two separate rubrics of evaluation in their heads at once? Doesn't Toulmin's (1958) model of argument in some way allow people to evaluate their television programming by a different standard than their civic engagement? And if not--why? The fun thing about the blog is having no answers--only questions.