Black Friday and Consumerism as Hegemony

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  • Sat, Nov 26, 2011 - 01:55am

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    Black Friday and Consumerism as Hegemony

 

Black Friday and Consumerism as Hegemony

I realize it’s a vastly overused term (I’ve appended a definition to the preceding post, just in case), and I wanted to make sure I was being clear in my usage, and not just a pithy grad student dropping a name. Here’s a good introductory primer:

By hegemony, Gramsci meant the permeation throughout society of an entire system of values, attitudes, beliefs and morality that has the effect of supporting the status quo in power relations. Hegemony in this sense might be defined as an ‘organising principle’ that is diffused by the process of socialisation into every area of daily life. To the extent that this prevailing consciousness is internalised by the population it becomes part of what is generally called ‘common sense’ so that the philosophy, culture and morality of the ruling elite comes to appear as the natural order of things.

 

      

 

Another quick note, this one on the calendrical co-existence of Black Friday, the psychotic celebration of irresponsible capitalism on the day after Thanksgiving, and Occupy Wall Street, the two-month old social movement in which those tired of the vast imbalances of capitalism toward corporations and banks are appropriating public spaces as a way to draw attention to their cause, which I will vastly oversimplify as “responsible capitalism.”

The graphic above perfectly encapsulates the manner in which similar-looking practices (camping in tents, but not in forests; organizing into crowds) are differently defined because of the ideological aims of those participating. You’re allowed to congeal into a mass of humanity or pitch your tent on concrete if your goal is capitalistic in nature. If in other words you’re acting as a modern consumer/citizen who defines him/herself and his/her position in society through the purchased acquisition of commodities.

If, however, you partake in the very same activities with a mindset of directly challenging the ideology of capital, and therefore the needs of a smoothly-functioning state, as the OWS protestors are, then you are subject to eviction, if not state-sponsored violence to your body. The horror of this state of affairs has been widely covered, but it boils down to the simple fact that Americans are being violently punished—ironically, by police forces clad exclusively in black—for performing democratic citizenship.

Black Friday actions don’t need to be controlled by patrols of war-ready, terror-inducing functionaries. Through the eyes of the state, those people are already controlling themselves.