Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Civilisation and Question of Love: Part III The Age of Shopping

Chaplin in Modern Times

The day kaleidoscope went to spend the night with friends, the day when the idea of exploring the question of love and civilisation was born, his friend cooked a lot. There was wonderfully cooked mutton, bhetki fish intended to be consumed in the late night dinner. The food was wonderful. There were crabs being bought from nearby restaurant which tasted awesome. It was a known fact that that much of food was not required. But they have arranged presumably out of an insecurity. Whenever kaleidoscope and his friends at the workplace drinks together they usually waste a lot of food. On each night they decide that from the next day they would not order but infallibly repeats the same mistakes again and again. Throughout much of the history people have lived under scarcity. Today's wastage has been viewed as sin by most of the religions. Only kings and and nobles were allowed for such a luxury. Today's philosophy has changed. Today we crave for more, we crave for things which we does not really need. We crave for things that was not there even the day before. 

Before going straight  to the point kaleidoscope wishes to focus on he film "pyaaar ka side effect" where Rahul Bose projects that the emotional disruption of a breakup is directly proportionate to the amount of money a person spends on shopping. Although he gets disappointed to see his girlfriend Mallika Sherawat does not shop much.
There is a song by Kabir Suman "ei sahor jane aamar pratham sob kichu" (this city knows all my first experiences ) where in one line of the song he claims to learn for the first time that one can buy anything with money. Money is a wonderful concept of trust.

Trust none but money:

What makes a shop keeper to exchange anything for a handful of papers? Papers have no material value,we cannot eat money, but we trust that we can di anything we want with money. It is a psychological construct. Money is the most efficient form of mutual trust that has ever been designed. From cowrie shell to barley bag to gold coins and now numbers. Money has systematically become most efficient and universal form of trust. Money is universally convertible and universally acceptable. Therefore, based on this mutual understanding, millions of people work in coordination. Our medium of trust as it appears converted from social relationships to economy, or more precisely to money.

To elaborate this point further kaleidoscope wishes to present a few of his field experiences. The weekly markets,or he haats are always his favourite places of doing fieldwork. What makes a haat different from market is the approach towards money. In a haat even today you would find that the seller does not much interested in counting the  money or checking the originality of a note. They will just take and dump the money in their pouch. While in urban markets the picture is completely different. They will count carefully, look for the originality of the note. The difference is between formalism (neoclassical economy of profit maximisation) and substantivism (economy embedded in social relationships and mutual trust). These two forms show two clear differences. With market based capital economy we trust none, but the money. While in pre-capital society mutual trust based on social relationship is extremely important. You don't need to count money from the person you know.

You shop... you suck (?)...

The consumerism is a much recent phenomena. Most of the tag lines that popular advertisements promote were considered selfish about a fifty (or thirty) years ago. Capitalism has worked really hard to promote consumerism so that they can dispose their products. Capitalism is surviving simply because it is constantly increasing its productivity. Today the phone from which i am writing this blog will not last more than a couple of years, or i might lost interest in it to buy a new one. The sofa on which i am sitting will need a changeover because it will become out of fashion.
Holiday means celebration with Coca-cola 

We have transformed our religious festivals as shopping carnivals. There is a new religion if consumerism. Where the rich invests and the rest buys. This is a wonderful religion which asks us to do what we really like to do. It asks us to crave for more, buy more and consume more. Most other religions for the rest of the human history has told us to go for nirvana, which is bloody tough to achieve, capitalism is the only exception. 

So why do we lose love when we shop? It is true that we tend to see monetary exchange in everything. Our spending of quality time means the power of purse to buy a quality ambiance, good food and wine. The choices for a life partner is also some how linked to the status and class, based primarily on money. The trust that we have over future is our trust on money. We do not have much trust on persons or relationships. Next time when you shop, you must also remember that giving expensive gifts to the person you think you love does not mean that you can measure your love with the amount you spent. You are spending because capitalism wants you to spend. Next time when when you make time out with your friends at different restaurants or pubs do remember that you are actually commodifying relationships with the power of money. When you claim you trust a person, whom do you trust, the person or his purchasing capacity? When you say you want to see a future with a person, whom you see, the future with the person or with his/her accessories? When you think/ or even feel that you actually love a person, what comes next? future, right? and what comes with future? 

Conceptual borrowings:

Polanyi, K. (1944). The great transformation: The political and economic origins of our time. Beacon Press.
Polanyi, Karl. "The economy as instituted process." Trade and market in the early empires 243 (1957).

Dalton, George. "Economic theory and primitive society." American Anthropologist (1961): 1-25.


  1. Really interesting... i do agree that we are losing love significantly.

  2. We are losing relationships and we are craving for more... where doea it end,

  3. Whom else to trust than your money? We are headed towards a direction which we cannot change. Don't you think its too late to even repent!

  4. Yes we are loosing love to a significant extent. There no point in repentance, but we also need to be conscious about such a loss.