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Abstract disponibile solo in lingua inglese
In order to understand, and perhaps criticize, the phenomenon of consumerism, it is first necessary to ponder upon the nature of capitalism. At the origins of capitalism there is the need for liberty which civilized society channels and directs against the rigid, sclerotic State-orientedness of tradition. Its most typical feature is faith in the ability of experience to calculate all, the organization of rational calculation. And capitalism is, of course, a system. This does not mean it is static: on the contrary, by its very nature, it lives perennially in a state of unstable equilibrium: one might even say that it lives off crises. It does mean, however, that it cannot be "retailed" or accepted only in part.
Within this framework, consumption has a decisive function. Indeed, it has prevented the realization and explosion of what Marx hypothesized as capitalism’s internal contradiction: namely, the contradiction between overpopulation, linked to profit maximization, and underconsumption, linked to the growth of pauperism. This is the sphere of action of the true entrepreneur—not to be confused with the rentier of financial speculator. His role is not to follow market demand: he must anticipate, "create" it.
How? For what type of consumer? For what type of society? The objective might be reasonable, rather than rational, capitalism—a capitalism that regards profit in terms of the minimum stability conditions of the social system as a whole. But that is where the real problems start!