Rack of wedding dresses at Kleinfeld in Manhattan © VancityAllie.com | Flickr
CapitalismEssaysTheory & Practice

Consumption and the Social Condition

“In a series of posts, Jeff Goldfarb and I [Iddo Tavory] have been sketching an outline for the study of the social condition — the predictable dilemmas that haunt social life. We argue that one of the core intellectual missions of sociology is to account for the ways in which social patterns set up these dilemmas that actors experience as crucial for their lives and how they define themselves.”

I have been following this inquiry into the social condition for a while, and I suggest that it will help to further understanding this condition if we take seriously the daily dramas of consumption, both as comedy and tragedy. “Say Yes to the Dress” is one of these social dramas, based on the very premise that buying a wedding dress really matters, that people do not make their consumption decisions lightly. …

READ MORE →
Technology R’ Us? © Nenad Cerovic | Dreamstime.com
EssaysMedia & Publics

Technology R’ Us

Sherry Turkle and our relationship to the digital

“Where are the sensitive machines … ?” So goes part of a tweet reproduced on the flyleaf to Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together. The lament is not new. Over 30 years ago the designer and design theorist John Chris Jones pointed to the low sensitivity of technical systems to humans and contrasted this with extreme adaptations that technical systems demanded of their human subjects. Adorno, in 1942, had already thought something of the same. Rejecting the common idea that technology is somehow “outside” of us, he insisted on the contrary that “the new human type” as he put it, “cannot be understood without awareness of what he is continually exposed to from the world of things about him, even in his most secret innervations.” And he added for good measure: “Technology is making gestures precise and brutal and with them men.” …

READ MORE →
Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis, smoking cigar. ©  1922 Max Halberstadt | LIFE photo archive
EssaysIn DepthThe Psyche

Who’s Afraid of Sigmund Freud?

The rise, fall, and possible resurrection of psychoanalysis in the United States

For decades psychoanalysis dominated professional approaches to mental health in the United States and had an influential impact on our culture. Starting in the late 1960s, however, psychoanalysis has become increasingly marginalized. Here, I will argue that psychoanalysis has always contained both subversive and conservative threads. As the historian Nathan Hale argued, Americans modified psychoanalysis to solve a conflict between the more radical implications of Freud’s views and the conformist pulls of American culture. This process of domestication enabled Americans to enthusiastically embrace psychoanalysis for a period of time. But they did so at the cost of transforming psychoanalysis in ways that ultimately contributed to its decline. Yet, ironically, the current marginalizaton of psychoanalysis may contain the seeds of a more radical psychoanalysis that serve as a healthy and constructive counter-cultural force moving forward…

READ MORE →