Thursday, February 03, 2005

9. The Space Merchants by Frederick Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth

The Space Merchants book pictureMy dad loves this book and I had read it a long time ago and thought it was okay. This time, I understand much better why he is so appreciative of it. It's a scathing attack on consumerism and I might have to say the most accurate prediction, in terms of social structures, of a dystopic future that I've read. The planet is overpopulated, run by giant mega-corporations. Most people are workers either blue or white collar, and basically trapped in a cycle of consumption and labor. They work to get the money to buy the useless things to which they are either addicted or so deeply brainwashed by constant advertising that they cannot do without. There are a few elites, who struggle hard to stay on top and keep the system in place.

It doesn't sound so original today, but the way it is described really spot on. A lot of the actual advertising techniques seem unsophisticated and you can tell that the book was written in the '50s. But the motivation behind it and the basic assumption that a world of endless cyclical consumption constructed on a fantasy of capitalistic renewal is incredibly powerful. The only political conflict comes from the Consies, ecological conservatives who are portrayed as a fringe group of total maniacs. The storyline and the way the actual conflicts of the narrative move forward are less engaging than the actual description of the society. But I strongly encourage everyone to read this book, at the very least to get a gander at Chicken Little.

We're fucked!

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