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Consumed, by Benjamin Barber

By an everyday book reader
March 1, 2007

This provocative culmination of Barber's lifelong study of democracy and capitalism shows how the infantilist ethos deprives society of responsible citizens and displaces public goods with private commodities. Traditional liberal democratic society is colonized by an all-pervasive market imperative. Public space is privatized. Identity is branded. Our world, homogenized.

With brilliance and depth, Barber confronts the likely consequences for our children, our liberty, and our citizenship, and shows finally how citizens can resist and transcend the civic schizophrenia with which consumerism has infected them.

Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole
by Benjamin R. BarberBook Picture

Hardcover: 320 pages
ISBN: 9780393049619, 0393049612
W. W. Norton
March 2007

Softcover: 416 pages
ISBN: 9780393330892, 0393330893
W. W. Norton
March 2008

A piercing and vital look at how capitalism is consuming U.S. society.

An apt sequel to Benjamin R. Barber's best-selling Jihad vs. McWorld, Consumed offers a wrenching portrait of how adult consumers are infantilized in a global economy that overproduces goods and targets children as consumers in a market where there are never enough shoppers. Driven by a frantic imperative to sell, consumer capitalism specializes today in the manufacture not of goods but of needs.

"Barber is a distinguished political theorist who for years has been writing about the deterioration of 'civil society' and what must be done to reclaim it. Many others have criticized our obsession with materialism and consumption, a theme he explored in Jihad vs. McWorld, but Barber's aim is not to be a scold. The Reagan revolution convinced us that turning the market loose would be good economics and good politics. Barber, in contrast, argues that 'Once upon a time, capitalism was allied with virtues that also contributed at least marginally to democracy, responsibility, and citizenship. Today it is allied with vices which -- although they serve consumerism -- undermine democracy, responsibility, and citizenship.' In other words, in the modern era, it's not so much democracy and capitalism as it is democracy or capitalism." - Barry Schwartz - The Washington Post

"Barber returns to the clashing models of civilization of his earlier Jihad vs. McWorld, focusing this time on the expanding global culture of market forces he claims will destroy not only democracy but even capitalism, if left unchecked. He warns of a totalitarian 'ethos of induced childishness' that not only seeks to turn the young into aggressive consumers but to arrest the psychological development of adults as well, 'freeing' them to indulge in puerile and narcissistic purchases based on 'stupid' brand loyalties. The increasing drive toward privatization compounds the problem, generating a 'civic schizophrenia' where everybody wants service but nobody wants to serve." - Publishers Weekly

"Capitalism wants more and more shoppers, and its final goal is not to give us what we want but to make us want what it gives us." - Library Journal

Benjamin R. Barber is the Gershon and Carol Kekst Professor of Civil Society and Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland. He is an internationally renowned political theorist and lives in New York City.

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