Working Paper, University of Massachusetts, Department of Economics 2004-07
Althusser's pioneering concept of "ideological state apparatuses" is extended to the unique role of consumerism as a particular ideology enabling and supporting U.S. capitalism. It is argued that rising levels of worker consumption have functioned effectively to compensate workers for (and thereby allow) rising rates of exploitation and their negative social effects. For such compensation to succeed requires that workers embrace an ideology stressing the importance of consumption, namely consumerism. It is argued that the weakness of the US left (in labor unions, parties, and movements) stems in part from having endorsed this consumerism rather than undermining it within the framework of an anti-capitalist politics.