“Human beings need to organize the inchoate sensations amid which we pass our days-pain, desire, pleasure, fear-into a story. When that story leads somewhere and thereby helps us navigate through life to its inevitable terminus in death, it gives us hope. And if such a story establishes itself over the time in the minds of a substantial number of people, we call it culture.”
o THE REAL AMERICAN DREAM consists of a series of lectures given by the author, Andrew Delbanco at Harvard. The book focuses on the major forces that drive Americans and engender hope in them.
o The author talks about three “sustaining narratives”- God, Self and Nation. The Americans find hope in these three areas. After all, these three keep at bay, “the lurking suspicion that all our getting and spending amounts to nothing more than fidgeting while we wait for death.” Americans have found hope in these three.
Delbanco begins by discussing the stringent God of protestant Christianity who has influenced the culture for almost 200 years. It, both publicly and privately, suffused so much of life. Everything hung on the framework it provided. The influence existed in language, institutions and culture. The author searches for the signs by which Americans have reached for those beyond worldly pleasures. However, along the mid 1900s we see the religion diminishing and God stops to be the inspiring factor and there is the formation of a sacred-nation state. Delbanco says, “the old story that religion told was no longer credible to many people”. The believers started to be underestimated and God lost the place it had once.
When one door closes, another has to open. The “source of justice, mercy and hope”, replaces God’s idea of “citizenship in a sacred union”. The Enlightenment rationally, carefully nurtured by great names like Lincoln ad Whitman forms the sprouting ground to the narrative- Nation. Lincoln’s concept of nationhood was as if democracy was God’s will. It is exemplified in his second inaugural speech when he announced, the Civil War as a penance for the sin of slavery, as the will of God. That became history and the wave of the 1960s made Americans lose their trust in American destiny and they lost faith in the national institutions. Democracy became deconstruction.
The narrative, self, is the narcissist’s hunt for personal gratification. Though it is widespread and quite popular, the author finds it blank and nil. Corporate logos symbolize it. However this does not yield any result. This is the feeling of isolation. The compensation is made by the amassing of wealth and a passion for physical pleasures like sex. This materialism leaves only dissatisfaction behind. The body does not endure-so points out all religions. Americans prefer isolated in themselves. They are no longer concerned about national issues and no longer find them as their responsibilities. After all Communism, Fascism, every fight is won. Many people hardly find any issues. Can any one sincerely point out the ever-growing gap between the needy and the saturated?
How do you understand to your relation to your heroic forebears? They took the risks. They made the sacrifices.
The author asks whether we deserve to be their beneficiaries. Questions like these were posed by every second or third generation American and waves of rich literature arose to answer them, the author consoles.
o Delbanco does give us a compensatory treat I.e. hope. Hope helps us go on. He warns us that we should deal with it with care. Hope comes in various contrasting packages. He finds hope a raw material to dream the future. The Real American Dream is not a mere dream of the author. It tells us the reasons why we should not contend ourselves with the present.
o Nobody can find meaning of the real world by looking at the narrative of Self. If you do, it ends up in a redundant egoism. The God narrative fails because nobody wants a protection that is not guaranteed. It is prettily not actual. It is sad that it blows up those who find God as their ultimate savior. Who knows what God’s intentions are? How can rationales thrive on these? The narrative of nation is a good replacement for the above. It works morally. Its ideals are larger than the egoistic self. It has rights and justice which God also deal with. This Tocquevillian insists we give everything for the cause of justice, knowledge, right, etc.
The author through his invoking spirits gives a rebirth to Tocqueville’s “faith is the only permanent state of mankind”. He helps us to see a melancholy in today’s’ culture. His work is highly timely. This book succeeds in sterilizing the spiritual history of America. This is indeed a scholastic work.
Report on CONSUMPTION by Robert Bocock
A REPORT ON CONSUMPTION
By ROBERT BOCOCK
o Robert Bocock, a senior lecturer in Sociology analyses the main features of consumerism. He critically overviews the major sociological approaches to the process of consumption in modern as well as post-modern worlds. Firstly he examines the role of consumption in early modern western society and reaches the twentieth century through the 1990s. Along with these, he discusses other writers in the same field- Veblen, Marx, Simmel, Gramsci, Weber, Bourdieu, Lacan, Baudrillard.
o The author uses psycho analytic methods to look at consumption. He says that it helps in reducing the gap between a critical theorist and a structuralist psychoanalyst. He talks about Herbert Marcuse and Jaques Lacan respectively. The topic used to be a marvelous one in the 1980s. It still can be maintained that way since, it poses as a social, psychological, cultural process along with being an economical one too.
o This is built upon his earlier study of symbols and rituals in industrial societies Freud and the concept of Hegemony. He deals with the issues such as the emergence of modern consumption, theorizing it, how it relates to the symbolic, the construction of gender and desire, etc.
o THE EMERGENCE OF MODERN CONSUMERISM: The early patterns of consumption emerged in the post Civil War period (second half of the 17th century). There was free wage-labor force which pursued systematic and rational generation of profits through the sale of commodities for a free market. Early Capitalism affected British agriculture. Puritanism effected in the growth of manufacturing capitalist families and they chose to re-invest rather than a luxurious life following the British ascetic values of not spending on luxury. These cultural values led to the development of capitalism in the 18th century. Different consumer goods started to be manufactured. Advertising began in the mid 18th century. Thus we see a consumer revolution in the 18th century. Porter sees this as a foundation for later large scale production processes.
o Karl Marx views the nineteenth century.
o THEORISING CONSUMPTION: consumption takes place in that economic system which is oriented to make profits as well as influenced by Protestantism or Catholicism as in Western Europe, North America, etc. seems like consumption is taking place with industrial capitalism.