Human Rights Project, Hannah Arendt Center, and Center for Civic Engagement present:
Lecture with Professor Trevor Norris
Consuming the Polis: Arendt's account of the rise of consumerism
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Olin Humanities, Room 102
7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
This event occurred on: Arendt is well known as a critic of modernity, but she is less well known as a critic of consumerism. In The Human Condition Arendt describes how the rise of a consumer society presents a profound threat to political life. Arendt provides a theoretical framework to explain how the public realm has been eroded by the emergence of the private forces of production and consumption, and the ensuing eclipse of politics. The polis is where we not only differentiate ourselves from others, but also differentiate between ‘activities related to a common world and those related to the maintenance of life.’ Consumerism constitutes a false form of differentiation, one based on commodification and self-commodification rather than political action in the form of ‘speech and deed’. With the loss of action and the polis, freedom becomes reduced to routinized behavior, difference and plurality to conformity and uniformity, speech and self-disclosure to production and consumption. The polis is required to enable the promotion of consumption such that we are no longer Aristotle’s zoon politikon, but live as if merely zoon. In closing, the presentation will raise a concern about the role of education: will education facilitate the promotion of a consumer society or serve as a site for renewal of our political world?