By Edward A. Comor (auth.)
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Additional resources for Consumption and the Globalization Project: International Hegemony and the Annihilation of Time
5 The question, of course, is precisely how does it do this and what, specifically, are its effects? Before answering this directly, the reader will note that in moving from a one-dimensional to a three-dimensional analysis of power, methodological difficulties arise. How, after all, can we assess something that cannot be readily observed or, indeed, doesn’t even happen? Following John Gaventa’s Power and Powerlessness,6 we know that seemingly unobservable inequalities can, in fact, be measured.
Of course such carrots are not the only tools impelling people to buy into consumerist lifestyles. All societies employ sanctions against non-conformists and the metaphorical ‘stick’ is close at hand. Again according to Oxford, a stick is the ‘shoot of tree cut to convenient length for use ... as a bludgeon’ or a ‘cane used in punishing’. Alongside the globalization of capitalist production and the wealth it generates, a significant number of people are being left behind. For those hundreds of millions now having little prospect of participating in consumption (beyond consuming what is needed merely to survive), their role in the global market system involves the task of producing goods for others.
In relatively wealthy liberal democracies, for example, where citizens (at least periodically through elections) are ‘heard’ by government officials, where they have the legal ability to organize, and where many have the wealth needed to ‘vote with their pocketbooks’, those who have the least (and, thus, also the most to gain) generally participate the least. For the onedimensional analyst, these people must be either satisfied or lazy. Otherwise, wouldn’t they do something? For students of the second dimension of power, in the absence of observable structural barriers, the first dimension of power constitutes, therefore, the only explanation left.