Shopping as a Social Discipline

April 17, 2012

Social discipline can be interpreted and executed in a variety of manners, with a range of parameters. Discipline through fashion by capitalism, using trends and consumerism, and the division of people into categories such as trendy/non-trendy, as a way of discipline.

There is an ever-growing number of magazines, articles, tv-shows, blogs etc dealing with the subject of fashion – what is trendy and not? Articles being read like the bible of the believers, items listed as ‘the latest must-have’ sold out in hours, the dread of not belonging, not being quite right. The anxiousness of falling down on the wrong side of the invisible line, like a modern time leper branded non-trendy.

Consumerism is the dragon which fiery breath spread new trends like a disease, but there is no guard to stop them. Only the next in line will stop the previous, with ones rise, the others demise. The change of seasons and fashion, once a simple solution for capitalism to raise sales has now become the dedication and lifestyle, the main ambition to strive for.

“…must never know whether he is being looked at at any one moment, but he must be sure that he may always be so…one is totally seen, without ever seeing; in the central tower, one sees everything without ever being seen.” (1)

If discipline requires an inspector, one could state that the public, one and everyone is the inspector who will watch and see, who will evaluate and judge. If trends are seen as a kind of social discipline, where no-one wants to be the leper who is branded as abnormal, where dressing is more than ever a way of showing our belonging, then shopping is the main nutrient for this discipline. But without an appointed inspector, who will distribute the punishment? Or will the punishment come in a more abstract form, the feeling of not belonging, not yet branded a modern day leper, but close enough?

– Sofie Andersson

1 – Michael Foucalt, ‘Discipline and Punish’, Penguin Books, England, 1977.


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