Read

How and Why to Detach from Consumerism

Published:
November 30, 2023
May 26, 2018
Read about the effects of today's consumer culture and how to stop consumerism.

In today’s world, companies are constantly trying to persuade us to buy something. Did you just get an email from Amazon about this week’s hot deals? Is an Old Navy commercial playing on your television? How about the ad for Nike you have to watch before your YouTube video loads?

According to sociologist and Georgetown University professor emeritus Theodor W. Adorno, this mass commodification is all a part of the culture industry. Simply put, this term refers to society’s obsession with consumerism which is ultimately fueled by companies dictating what we ought to buy and how we should think.

For example, every year a new phone model comes out. Leading up to the big event, tech companies publish articles speculating what the latest phone will feature, enthusiasts flock to the day-of play-by-play live feeds, and about a week later, you can “pre-order” the latest-and-greatest phone or stand in line for hours at your local phone retailer.

*yawn*

Now, technological advances are great — yay future advances in medicine and environmental studies! — but is our survival dependent on getting the newest smartphone with the thinnest frame and most high-def camera?

Sure — phone upgrades are the easiest example. But this is not an isolated incident of today’s unbridled materialism. Instead, you can find hints of the culture industry Adorno warns us about almost anywhere you look.

Dulling our senses

While the effects of this problem can lead to a cycle of consumption and waste, we are also personally damaged.

In the culture industry, businesses decide what we consume, how we consume it, and when we consume it. Even worse, the culture industry does not permit us the ability to dig deeper and discover the true meaning of things, because the goods and services it provides are all one dimensional. In other words, everything we receive is formulaic, meaning it adds no surprises or value to our lives.

Instead, the culture industry simply dulls our senses, turning us into “passive receivers” of whatever businesses provide.

Does this sound familiar?

In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis explains our consumerist society is the result of “a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience.”

Although the pope does not specifically mention the culture industry, he picks up on Adorno’s fears surrounding our world’s materialistic infrastructure. Namely, if we continue to obey the culture industry, we will only desire to accumulate more material objects rather than helping others or developing our own moral character.

What an incredibly scary thought.

Breaking free

So, there has to be a solution, right?

Well, yes and no.

In order to curb the power of the culture industry, our society needs to collectively come together and look past material wealth. Clearly, though, this feat is not easy to accomplish.

However, there are a few things we can do on our own to help gradually inspire others to break free from the culture industry’s grasp:

  1. Start saying “no” to commercialism. I’ll admit it: shopping is fun. But do you really need that new phone just because it’s the latest and (supposedly) greatest? Perhaps not. So, instead of constantly spending, try saving your money and making it work for you.
  2. Get uncomfortable. Part of the problem of the culture industry is standardization. Basically, this characteristic means today’s consumerism blocks off the weird and edgy stuff which can help us contemplate the world and approach its embedded truth. In its place, the culture industry simply gives us comfortable, mundane goods. Don’t be afraid to break from trends and focus on what will bring you true joy.

Equipped with knowledge about the culture industry, you can become a leader within your family, group of friends, workplace, or even your local community. The culture industry should not control your life, so don’t let it — show others it is okay to go against the grain.

Creators:
Ashley Adamczyk
Published:
November 30, 2023
May 26, 2018
On a related note...
Using Art and Science to Restore Coral Reef Habitats

Using Art and Science to Restore Coral Reef Habitats

Grotto

4 Steps to Lead Your Employer to a Greener Footprint

4 Steps to Lead Your Employer to a Greener Footprint

Jessie McCartney

Can We Stay ‘Green’ During the Pandemic?

Can We Stay ‘Green’ During the Pandemic?

Dan Masterton

What It Takes to Be a Great Mentor

What It Takes to Be a Great Mentor

Grotto

3 Ways to Practice Everyday Mindfulness

3 Ways to Practice Everyday Mindfulness

Krista Steele

My Eating Disorder Was About Control as Much as Food

My Eating Disorder Was About Control as Much as Food

Kristen Deasy

Women Find Healing Through Kintsugi Workshop

Women Find Healing Through Kintsugi Workshop

Grotto

Can't Sleep? Stop Stressing, Start Praying

Can't Sleep? Stop Stressing, Start Praying

Alessandro DiSanto

My Plans are Ruined, But I'm Realizing It's a Gift

My Plans are Ruined, But I'm Realizing It's a Gift

Marye Colleen Larme

How Your Attachment Style Impacts Your Relationships

How Your Attachment Style Impacts Your Relationships

Julia Hogan-Werner

Youth Running Club Gives Girls Confidence | Little Ways: Mentor

Youth Running Club Gives Girls Confidence | Little Ways: Mentor

Grotto

Thanksgiving Meals for Every Dietary Restriction

Thanksgiving Meals for Every Dietary Restriction

Mariah Cressy

An Open Letter to Discouraged Single Girls

An Open Letter to Discouraged Single Girls

Anne Ullrich

How to Stop Feeling Like an Imposter

How to Stop Feeling Like an Imposter

Molly Cruitt

Interested in Not Dying? Here’s a Guidebook

Interested in Not Dying? Here’s a Guidebook

Hanna Van Elk

6 Tips for Budgeting on a Year-of-Service Stipend

6 Tips for Budgeting on a Year-of-Service Stipend

Molly Gettinger

Free Download: Advent Coloring Pages

Free Download: Advent Coloring Pages

Grotto

How To Maintain Long-Distance Friendships

How To Maintain Long-Distance Friendships

Stephanie DePrez

Spreading Love in This Pandemic with Homemade Bread

Spreading Love in This Pandemic with Homemade Bread

Grotto

Voice Actor Leaves Small Town to Pursue Passion

Voice Actor Leaves Small Town to Pursue Passion

Grotto

newsletter

We’d sure love to be pals.

Like what you see? Make it easy on yourself and we’ll meet you right in your inbox next time.