Applying Postmodern Perspectives to Shopping and Consumption
According to some social theorists, the postmodern society is a consumer society. The focus of the capitalist economy has shifted from
production to consumption. Today,the emphasis is on getting people to consume more and to own a greater variety of things. As previously discussed, credit cards may encourage people to spend more money than they should, and often more than they can afford (Ritzer, 1998). Television shopping networks and cybermalls make it possible for people to shop around the cIock without having to leave home or encounter "real" people. As Ritzer (1998: 121) explains, "So many of our interactions in these settings ... are simulated, and we become so accustomed to them, that in the end all we have are simulated interactions; there are no more 'real' interactions. The entire distinction between the simulated and the real is lost; simulated interaction is the reality" (see. also Baudrillard, 1983). Similarly, Ritzer (1998: 121) points out that a credit card is a simulation:
Any given credit card is a simulation of all other cards of the same brand; there was no "original" card from which aUthors are copied; there is no "real" credit card. Furthermore, credit cards can be seen as simulations of simulations. That is, they simulate currency, but each bill is a simulation, a copy, of every other bill and, again, there was never an original bill from which all others have been copied. But currencies, in turn, can be seen as simulations of material wealth, or of the faith one has in the Treasury, or whatever one imagines to be the "real" basis of wealth. Thus, the credit card shows how we live in a world characterized by a never-ending spiral of simulation built upon simulation.
As this example suggests, postmodern theorists do not focus on actors (human agents) as they go about their everyday lives, but instead offer more-abstract conceptions of what constitutes "reality."For postmodernists, social life is not an objective reality waiting for us to discover how it works. Rather, what we experience as social life is actually nothing more or less than how we think about it, and there are man)' diverse ways of doing that. According to a postmodernist perspective. the Enlightenment goal of intentionally creating a better world out of some knowable truth is an ilLusion.. Although some might choose to dismiss postmodernist approaches. they do give us new and important questions to think about regarding the nature of social life. Concept Quick Review reviews all four of these perspectives. Throughout this book, we will be using these perspectives as lenses through which to view our social world.