Are you Black Friday shopper, like Penn? Or are you ambivalent, like Ellen? This week, the ladies of the Social Breakdown get together for a breakaway episode on the history of Black Friday and the many sociological purposes of holiday shopping. What does seasonal overconsumption do to our emotions, pocketbooks, and the environment? How are sales used to shame shoppers and bury environmental reports cough cough Trump administration cough? Tune in here to learn more!
Black Friday, shopping, holidays, consumption, consumer culture, materialism, overconsumption
- Here’s a good (and free) place to start on the work of Thorstein Veblen, an American economist and sociologist who theorized the concept of ‘conspicuous consumption.’ This is his most notable work, “The Theory of the Leisure Class.”
- “A Brief History of Black Friday” (Mental Floss)
- “What’s the Real History of Black Friday” (History)
- “Black Friday Brawl Videos are How Rich People Shame the Poor” (Washington Post)
- “Stop Shaming Black Friday Shoppers” (Racked)
- “The Energy 202: Trump Administration’s Release of a Climate Report on Black Friday didn’t bury the news” (Washington Post)
- “Death of Small Businesses in Big Cities, Explained” (Vox)
- “Banning Straws and Bags Won’t Solve our Plastic Problem” (World Resources Institute)
Words may not bring you down, but your looks may bring you to far places.How do you know you’re beautiful? If it is a social construction, where does this all come from? Beauty is a rich and powerful phenomenon and we all participate in this process. Good looks allow you to be upwardly mobile. Carving out a particular aesthetic is part of a culture built on consumerism and superficial ideas about human bodies. We have to challenge this and break it down, of course. So come join us in this week’s episode about beauty–in every single way!
Beauty, body, fashion, consumerism, consumer culture
- The beauty industry is valued at $445 billion
- Historical notion of beauty: “A Look Back at Beauty Through History”
- Scientific notion of beauty: How symmetry indicates good health from The Economist (2012), “On The Face Of It”
- Sociological notion of beauty from Anthony Synnott’s (1989) “Truth and Goodness, Mirrors and Masks”
Beauty is… a rich and powerful phenomenon, with many meanings at different levels or in different dimensions at different frequencies… The significance [of beauty] is immense, psychological and sociological, economic and literary, philosophical and even theological; they are entwined with non-verbal communication, mood and character assessment, social mobility, helping behavior of all sorts, sexuality and a wide range of personal and moral qualities; furthermore beauty may be seen as physical or spiritual, inner or outer, natural or artificial, subjective or objective, positive or even negative (p. 610-611).
- “Beautiful People Make More Money”
- On the halo effect from W. Gerrod Parrott’s (2014) The Positive Side of Negative Emotions
People judge a good looking person as having a more desirable personality, or perhaps infer that a young unorthodox-looking female is less likely to be a competent philosopher than a middle-aged male.
- How women were convinced they needed to shave their legs (Vox)
- Hugh Hefner’s obituary
- If you’re interested in the notion of Beauty as a Status, here’s a good journal article by James Driskell
- “Skin Bleaching: Why Black Women in a Predominately Black Culture Are Still Bleaching Their Skin” (Marie Claire)
Skin bleaching is “deeply rooted in a history of slavery and colonialism. Historically, “brown” Jamaicans were the product of relationships between black Jamaicans and white slave-owners or colonial rulers, and often received greater access to land and resources as a result of their white ancestry. Today, lighter brown skin is still read as a marker of privilege and access—class is often divided among racial lines, with wealthier and more powerful Jamaicans generally being white and brown, while poor Jamaicans are mostly black. In this context, Charles says, skin bleaching becomes a strategic choice.”
What’s your favorite brand? Do you believe in retail therapy? What about how ‘a diamond is forever’? Consumer culture surrounds us in every aspect of our social lives, and is virtually impossible to ignore, especially with the development of the internet and new media technologies that bombard us with ads while providing us with the tools to be creative and powerful consumers. But are you, the consumer, being exploited by big name corporations? Join us to find out!
Consumer culture, consumption, prosumption, internet, brand loyalty, exploitation
- Josie and the Pussycats (2001)
- “How Retailers Trick You with Their Amazing Black Friday ‘Discounts'”
- Production, Consumption, Prosumption by George Ritzer and Nathan Jurgenson (2010)
- Justin Knapp, the super Wikipedia prosumer
- Thorstein Veblen on conspicuous consumption
Conspicuous consumption of valuable goods is a means of reputability to the gentleman of leisure. As wealth accumulates on his hands, his own unaided effort will not avail to sufficiently put his opulence in evidence by this method. The aid of friends and competitors is therefore brought in by resorting to the giving of valuable presents and expensive feasts and entertainments.
- Definition of Exploitation from the Blackwell Encyclopedia
Exploitation occurs when someone or something (e.g., a material resource, an opportunity) is used or taken advantage of. Social scientists are chiefly concerned with the exploitation of people and classes, who are generally considered exploited if they are required, by force or by circumstances, to contribute more to some process than they receive in return.
- Lil Yachty’s diamond chain of his own face
- Adam Ruins Everything on the De Beers’ “A Diamond is Forever” marketing scam
- Blood Diamonds (Time Magazine editorial)
- “Escalating Sweatshops Protests Keep Nike Sweating”
- “Life and Death in Apple’s Forbidden City”, an article on Apple’s Foxcon factories
- “Yes, prisoners used to sew lingerie for Victoria’s Secret”
- Juliet Schor’s The Overspent American: Why We Want What We Don’t Need (1999)
- The Tiny House Movement
- The Minimalists on Minimalism
- Keeping up with the Kardashian pregnancies article