Modern necessities

I read something in a book I am making my way through. I usually finish off books in one or two settings but this one has proved much harder to polish off. It is long, and it feels like every page has something worth my time. This rarely happens doesn’t it? Rarely do I feel like spending an equal amount of energy and concentration on every page of a book. After having read a bunch of them (and immensely enjoying at least a few of them) I do a good job of skimming through what I consider to be the unimportant bits of a book.

In this book – The Age of Surveillance Capitalism – I have not been able to make this call. Everything seems important, and a lot of it is scary.

The book is basically about the age we live in. The “information age”. I think everyone should give it a read (or a listen, if you’re one of those audiobook heathens). I found this one part in it that talks about how we progressively get used to more and more, and therefore start demanding more and more in this increasingly consumerist age very telling. Here is what it sounds like;

That the luxuries of one generation or class become the necessities of the next has been fundamental to the evolution of capitalism during the last five hundred years. Historians describe the “consumer boom” that ignited the first industrial revolution in the late-eighteenth-century Britain, when, thanks to visionaries like Josiah Wedgewood and the innovations of the early modern factory, families new to the middle class began to buy the china, furniture and textiles that only the rich had previously enjoyed. This new “propensity to consume” is considered “unprecedented in the depth to which it penetrated the lower reaches of society…” In 1767 the political economist Nathaniel Forster worried that “fashionable luxury” was spreading “like a contagion,” and he complained of the “perpetual restless ambitions in each of the inferior ranks to raise themselves to the level of those immediately above them.” Adam Smith wrote insightfully on this social process, noting that upper-class luxuries can in time be recast as “necessaries.” This occurs as the “established rules of decency” change to reflect new customs introduced by elites, triggering lower-production methods that transform what was once unattainable into newly affordable goods and services.

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