Consumer Culture As The Search For Self

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In a recent essay for Pop Matters, Rob Hornung concludes that cultural consumers of his generation have come of age. Once at the vanguard, resistant to mainstream marketing, young RenGen have been brought into the flow of mainstream culture by the Internet.

“We never receded into the mass; instead mass culture mutated to cater to us as individuals and we thrived on the way it could decode us. Identity, as that kind of decoding, has become ubiquitous, a compulsion. Our identity is at once more palpable and more fragile than it has perhaps ever been—we have a rich and subtle language of objects with which to express it, yet no one seems to understand who we really are, and we keep trying to understand ourselves. We can’t escape turning ourselves inside out and signing over our desire to consumerism to try to ease the dislocation, solve the riddle.”

Hornung’s penetrating insights beg one question. Is there an inescapable “consumerism” embedded in the American psyche? Frugalists be damned! Are we wired to buy because—I buy therefore I am?