Foucault, Consumerism, and Identity Essay

Foucault, Consumerism, and Identity Essay

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Foucault, Consumerism, and Identity


Michel Foucault presents those revolutionary sorts of analyses that are rich not only for their content but for their implications and novel methodological approach. Just beyond the surface of his works lies such philosophical wealth that one can be overwhelmed by considerations of which vein to mine first, and what to make of the elements therefrom extracted.

I’ve broken earth in several attractive sites this last week. Some, it seemed, hid their treasures too deep for the scope of this excavation. Some presented me with granite barriers which I do not yet have the tools to penetrate. At other sites, the earth gave way easily and I made great progress, only to be flooded out. Finally, at the fifteenth hour, I have struck something shiny.

I wish to use Foucault’s accounts of socialisation, categorisation, and discipline, as the background for my analysis of a modern entity I call the “identity package.” I will define this concept and show how it fits into and is suggested by Foucault’s works. Following this I will deal briefly with supposed problems with Foucault’s account (or lack of an account) of subjectivity.

Narrative gives coherence to a life. Particular episodes make sense in light of a uniting theme. The simplistic world view of the Middle Ages left people satisfied with fairly simple narratives. One knew their personal obligations and had a vague idea of how they fit into the systems of king and God.

For the sovereign and the elite, their special status was confirmed in ceremony and artistic representations.1[1] The masses were unrepresented. The lack of demand for empowerment or change may be partly due to the fact t...


... middle of paper ...


...of this system.

The process of categorisation seems to have an assimilative function. If you can’t beat them, label them. If it fits into our picture, it is ours. Put this way, it seems like we are imprisoned in a menacing matrix of metaphysical manipulation. However, as I have shown to be the case in pop culture, we are complicit in our captivity, in fact, all too willing to participate.


1[1]Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish, tr.Alan Sheridan (New York: Vintage,1995) p.192
2[2]With an increase in bureaucracy came an increase in the importance of meticulous knowledge; with this, more power and a more distinct role for the researcher.
3[3]Modern advertising calls this “appeal to a certain demographic”.
4[4]Quoted in: Michael Clifford, Politcal Genealogy After Foucault, (New York: Routledge, 2001) p.99

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