The Rise of Political Consumerism

Feb 18 2014, 05:21 IST
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SummaryThe freedom to choose one and discard many is at the heart of the consumerist movement, and today it is also powering the political landscape

Admittedly, there is a huge amount of political messages that we are consuming these days. From mass media to social networks, from movie halls to open stadiums, from mass transit to personal meetings, there is one topic that all of us have been discussing: Political messages. They are all around us as ads from a host of parties, as claims from a gaggle of leaders, as a call to participate from parties, they even ask for donation of metal scraps to build a monument. That’s a classic crowdsourcing tactic. Classically, this is anything but politics.

Politics is about influencing citizens over civic issues, policies, organising control over human societies, of future and of governance. Politics is not about broadcasting a set of messages to a wide bunch of mass audiences to create a sense of mass following based on a few features. Usually, it is consumerist brands that would be acting in this manner.

That begs the questions Have we become consumers of politics? Have we become passive recipients of messages and are expected to act on the messages?

Consumerism is an economic order that is all about choices, excesses, unwanted desires and of too many goods and services that the society can often do without. Brands in every category urge the consumers to consume more of them, at the expense of competing brands. While they do satisfy some basic needs, the consumption of brands most often is driven by a slightly higher order emotional need. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory is the best way to explain why we consume what we consume.

In a perfect world, politics and consumerism should be two poles that cannot come together. There is hardly anything that is common between the two except that both are about influencing, helping the public choose one over another and almost always help alter current behaviour patterns.

At the core is freedom of choice. This freedom to choose one and discard many is at the heart of the consumerist movement, and today it is also powering the political landscape.

This can truly be called ‘Political Consumerism’. As usual, there are some good things and some bad things that are a function of the rise of consumerism in politics.

First, the common thing that is both good and bad. The action that a brand seeks is transaction. This transaction happens at a fairly regular interval, the brand messages are interventions at those intervals to

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