I shop therefore I am … Barbara Kruger’s slogan from 1987 didn’t lose its bite. And what she says is not just that shopping became a matter of life style, as some commentators suggest. Shopping or rather consuming in general became a matter of survival. It is the only way to have a rest. Consumption is the only escape from the pressure to perform. If we don’t consume we have to work, if we don’t work hard (in the office), we have to work out (at a fitness center), if we don’t work out, we have to have fun (organize fun). What is at stake is the old-fashioned Marxian thesis of commodity fetishism – although in a slight variation. Commodity fetishism does not only function to conceal exploitative relations of production (which it still does, of course!), but to presumably provide the only remaining island that is entered without effort. Have a break! Have a treat! You deserve it you worked hard enough to reward yourself is what the products from the shop shelves keep calling at us.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau once blamed the nation state to be an atrocious invention because of its unsatisfiable character. A state never has a full stomach. It remains always hungry and thirsty. Thus it accumulates riches and in order to do so wages wars without limits (it has no belly that could possibly explode, it has no body that could possibly die). The accumulation of riches by individuals on the contrary reaches according to Rousseau its limits in bodily restraints. Our greed finds a natural barrier in a full stomach. Unfortunately Rousseau was wrong. Today some men (I don’t know whether there is a woman among them) are richer than the richest states. And they keep on accumulating riches even though their stomachs are full and they own already everything one can possibly imagine. They continue to accumulate, for who? For their kids (done), for the kids of their kids (done), for the kids of the kids of the kids of their kids? In the meanwhile the kids of their neighbours (maybe not the close ones) are starving. Pity, that even with a 100 billion Dollar one cannot buy a place in “Noah’s Ark of the future” to survive all natural catastrophes and wars.