Sunday, January 06, 2008


There are days when I wake up, or am walking, and I really want to spend money. The impulse is not a craving for anything in particular, not a craving or a desire for things. It is seriously a desire to spend money on something. It doesn't matter how much or what for.

I'm not sure how to feel about this. It's something I'd like to stop, in a technical sense, especially given that my financial pragmatism is limited from the get-go. But I wonder about this as an effect of capitalism—it seems to go further, and be a little weirder, than the ones we tend to worry about in general. It is the act of spending itself that will reassure me. I often go out and buy a bottle of juice or the like when this hits me, because it's not the standard American problem of "I need a new toy to comfort me in my time of need." I need to have less money in my wallet.

Considering it, it's sometimes a need for human contact. It's a need I usually have when I've been alone all day, or too busy to think about anything else, but I don't get into conversations with salespeople as a result—quite the contrary, usually. It's a rapid in-and-out procedure. The source of the desire may be loneliness, but the relief comes in getting the money out of my hand.

I'm not excited about anything this might say about me, but I'm really unclear on what it says in the first place. It says that in spite of being generally somewhat skeptical about capitalism, it still exercises a pull over me, but it's a strange pull. I've managed for the most part to excise the Need For Objects—not completely, obviously, and I'm not living off-grid or anything else so ambitious, but I don't love shopping as an act or feel that all my gifts need to be material the way I used to. Still there is a relief that comes with spending small amounts of money, and a craving to do so. What *is* that all about?


At 3:47 PM, Blogger tyromaven said...

I have an instinct to think of the consumer impulse as an attempt to make up for the gaping hole left unfilled by producer activity. In the absence of the certainty and necessity of making things that we depend on in our lives, we have the option to seek some certainty that our consumer goods will be rendered onto us. Lo, the things we need exist and we have the might to bring them into our orbit.

there's something soothing to our anxiety about the state of the universe that stuff is there when we want to buy it with money. I'm in no way an original thinker here, but the part that sticks out most prominently for me, that I don't hear other people talk about, is how our consumer anxiety is also based on our lack of security as producers.

Have you seen the Story of Stuff? It's 20 min, but really concise and clear and somewhat thorough. And it makes me rededicate myself to never taking a disposable cup.

At 9:45 PM, Blogger Lawrence said...

in looking at your entry from 2005 that i just wrote that long-ass comment about music on, i went a few entries back and saw an entry you had about onion soup... do you think that has anything to do with it? to confirm that you're taking part in the network of society? (a sort of slight modification of the human-contact argument, i suppose, but enough to make a difference.) probably the closest i feel to this, at least as distinguished from your "standard American problem" (which i also feel acutely at times), is when i'm in a music store and feel a *duty* there to buy *something*.

or maybe it's faith that you can be connected to society *without* human contact, even? to confirm to yourself that society, not necessarily *this* society, but the *idea* of society, works?

(actually, these big ideas about how the reason you're feeling this is a desire to "confirm" some kind of "idea" do seem kind of daft to me, i.e. these desires for confirmation are too complicated philosophically to be transformed into emotions without your complicity. but then again, so does the idea of "capitalism".)


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