Growing up on a Midwestern farm while Marx worked on the final draft of Capital, Vol. I, was a boy who, as a man, would have a very different take on the relationship of workers to the products of their labor. Thorstein Veblen would become famous for what he wrote about the fetishized commodities of consumers.…For Veblen, all the nonessentials that we purchase as consumers reflect standards of respectability established by the upper class. The “motive that lies at the root of ownership is emulation,” he wrote, not just of others but of wealthy and powerful others. Under capitalism, one’s property “becomes the conventional basis of esteem,” by which Veblen meant both the high regard of others and self-esteem.…Over the past few decades, however, standards for personal appearance have been transformed in ways that seem to turn Veblen’s conspicuous consumption idea inside out
The Taming of the American Crowd explains how the crowd as an active subject of change—often positive, sometimes not—has been replaced by the passive crowd as object of control and regulation. Today, the imperatives of mass society organize people in large numbers to consume goods and conform to permissible behavioral patterns; not to openly contest power. But, with the world entering a new period of economic uncertainty and mass protests erupting across the globe, it is time to reverse that trend. This book shows us the history of the untamed crowd and urges us to reclaim its legacy.