Consumers and Citizens: Globalization and Multicultural Conflicts

Consumers and Citizens: Globalization and Multicultural Conflicts

Consumers and Citizens: Globalization and Multicultural Conflicts

Consumers and Citizens: Globalization and Multicultural Conflicts

Synopsis

In Consumers and Citizens, Nestor Garcia Canclini, the best-known and most innovative cultural studies scholar in Latin America, maps the critical effects of urban sprawl and global media and commodity markets on citizens and shows that the complex results mean not only a shrinkage of certain traditional rights (particularly those of the welfare or client state), but also new openings for expanding citizenship.

Garcia Canclini focuses on the diverse ways in which democratic societies recognize markets of citizen opinions, however heterogeneous and dissonant, as in the fashion and entertainment industries. He shows how identity issues, brought to the fore by the aligning of citizenship and consumption, can no longer be understood strictly within the purview of territory or nation. Defining a new space structured along the lines of markets, Garcia Canclini seeks to formulate a participatory and critical approach to consumption in which national culture, far from being extinguished, is reconstituted in transnational, cultural interactions.

Excerpt

This book attempts to understand how changes in modes of consumption have altered the possibilities and forms of citizenship. The exercise of citizenship has always been associated with the capacity to appropriate commodities and with ways of using them. It has also been commonplace to assume that the difference in modes of consuming and using commodities is canceled out by equality of abstract rights, actualized in voting, in choosing a political party or a labor union as one’s representative. The insolvency of politics and the loss of belief in its institutions have created opportunities for other forms of participation. Men and women increasingly feel that many of the questions proper to citizenship—where do I belong, what rights accrue to me, how can I get information, who represents my interests?—are being answered in the private realm of commodity consumption and the mass media more than in the abstract rules of democracy or collective participation in public spaces.

In these times, when electoral campaigns occupy the television studio more than the convention hall, engage in a contest of images rather than doctrinaire polemics, and rely on the seduction of marketing surveys more than on the power of persuasion, it is all too understandable . . .

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