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Beyond Consumer Capitalism: Media and the Limits to Imagination

Beyond Consumer Capitalism: Media and the Limits to Imagination

Justin Lewis

ISBN: 978-0-745-67166-6 January 2014 Polity 200 Pages




Consumer capitalism dominates our economy, our politics and our culture. Yet there is a growing body of research from a range of disciplines that suggests that consumer capitalism may be past its sell-by date.

Beyond Consumer Capitalism begins by showing how, for people in the developed world, consumer capitalism has become economically and environmentally unsustainable and is no longer able to deliver its abiding promise of enhancing quality of life . This cutting-edge book then asks why we devote so little time and effort to imagining other forms of human progress. The answer, Lewis suggests, is that our cultural and information industries limit rather than stimulate critical thinking, keeping us on the treadmill of consumption and narrowing our vision of what constitutes progress. If we are to find a way out of this cul de sac, Lewis argues, we must begin by analysing the role of media in consumer capitalism and changing the way we organize media and communications. We need a cultural environment that encourages rather than stifles new ideas about what guides our economy and our society.

Timely and compelling, Beyond Consumer Capitalism will have strong appeal to students and scholars of media studies, cultural studies and consumer culture.

Acknowledgements page vii

1 Introduction: The problems of consumer capitalism in the twenty-first century – and why we find it so
difficult to appreciate them 1

Part I Stretching beyond its limits: The tired machinery of consumer capitalism

2 Consumer capitalism as a cul-de-sac 15

3 The environmental, economic and social constraints of consumer capitalism 26

Part II Selling stories

4 The insatiable age 53

5 Tales of sales: The politics of advertising 70

Part III Reporting consumer capitalism

6 Disposable news and democracy: Rethinking the way we report the world 93

7 Disposable news, consumerism and growth 111

Part IV Waste and retrieval

8 Obsessed with obsolescence: Confusing hyperconsumption with progress 133

9 Imagining a different world 154

Notes 177

References 205

Index 223

"Examines with eloquence and erudition the rampant consumer capitalism and persistent neo-liberalism of contemporary society and investigates the media’s collusion in this state of affairs. This is a book for our times."
James Curran, Goldsmiths, University of London

"A masterpiece. With panache and vision, Lewis makes a powerful case for the severe limitations of contemporary capitalism for a sustainable or humane society and he locates the commercial media's fingerprints all over the rotting corpse. Lewis provides a powerful critique and also points towards a way out. Elegantly written and with a sweeping command of the relevant literature, Beyond Consumer Capitalism is a book I will use in my classes; it should be required reading for young people wanting to understand our predicament."
Robert W. McChesney, University of Illinois

"Justin Lewis is one of the world's most acute observers of contemporary cultural politics. Effortlessly blending political economy, textual analysis and participant observation, his latest book alerts us, in an incisive but always humane way, to the excesses of consumption. This is an instant classic with abiding lessons for us all."
Toby Miller, University of California Riverside
  • Argument-driven book that analyses the role of media industries in consumer capitalism
  • Lewis argues that we need to move beyond consumer capitalism as it has become unsustainable
  • Cutting edge topic that also considers the environmental impact of consumer capitalism
  • Suggests a way forward by calling for a change in the way we organize media and communications