Myself speaking at ‘Advertising and Consumer Culture‘ PG Symposium, Centre for Modern Studies, University of York (31st May 2013).
I sat on a panel entitled ‘Anti-consumerism?’ chaired by Dr. Alex Beaumont and including papers from Paddy Johnston (Sussex) on ‘False Advertising: Parodies of Adverts in Chris Ware’s ACME Novelty Library’ and Lydia Nicholas (UCL) on ‘Fixing Our Things, Fixing Ourselves: Crafting an Anti-consumption Identity’.
I had technical issues on the day, so this is the ‘edited’ version of my paper (as it was intended).
In a society where there has recently been a re-emergence of resistive sentiment – with heightened activism and radical discourse in the wake of the financial crisis – it has become more crucial than ever to consider the nature of this resistance. For instance, we must ask questions of what the role of resistance is and in what medium it plays out so that we can establish its effectiveness in overcoming the current ideological framework.
It could, for instance, be seen as problematic that resistance and rebelliousness is so often used in advertising and consumer culture (often insinuating a resistance against the very consumer society that it is a part of). This paper intends to present a few examples of this ‘anti-consumer consumerism’ and suggests a fundamental problem that this presents for any contemporary resistive project: interpassivity.
Interpassivity (Pfaller 2003; Zizek 1989; Fisher 2009) refers to the relieving of the passivity of the subject through an ‘other’. For example, when we watch a comedy on the television that contains canned laughter, we tend not to laugh ourselves and yet somehow feel relieved. The canned laughter can be said to act interpassively on our behalf – enjoying the programme for us – so that we don’t have to.
This paper suggests that this concept could be applied fruitfully to resistance because anti-consumer products could be said to “perform our anti‐ capitalism for us, allowing us to continue to consume with impunity” (Fisher 2009:12). By demonstrating potential examples of this in advertising, the aim is to show how the concept might be applied to the analysis of consumer culture in order to reconsider the nature of resistance in our society.
Fisher, M. (2009) Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? Ropley: Zero Books
Pfaller, R. (2003) “Little Gesture of Disappearance: Interpassivity and the Theory of Ritual” Journal of European Psychoanalysis: Humanities, Philosophy, Psychotherapies 16
Zizek, S. (1989) The Sublime Object of Ideology London: Verso