Slavoj Zizek On Starbucks And The Hidden Price Of Consumerism
The following is a transcript from the above excerpt from my favorite part of The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology, the 2012 British documentary featuring everyone’s favorite Slovene philosopher and psychoanalyst, Slavoj Zizek, and which was directed by Sophie Fiennes (of the Joseph and Ralph Fiennes clan).
I somehow missed the movie when it was released a couple years back in theaters (the general viewing public wasn’t exactly lining up around the street to get into screenings), but it has recently been released here in the U.S. on Netflix and is available for viewing anytime.
Let’s turn to the high point of our consumerism. Let me take a drink.
Starbucks coffee. I’m regularly drinking it, I must admit it. But are we aware, that when we buy a cappuccino from Starbucks, we also buy quite a lot of ideology? Which ideology?
You know, when you enter a Starbucks store, it’s usually always displayed in some posters, their message, which is: “Yes, our cappuccino is more expensive than others,” but, then comes the story.
“We give 1% all our income to some Guatemalan children to keep them healthy, for the water supply for some Saharan farmer, or to save the forest, to enable organic growing for coffee, or whatever or whatever.”
Now, I admire the ingenuity of this solution. In the old days of pure, simple consumerism, you bough a product, and then you felt bad. “My God, I’m just a consumerist, while people are starving in Africa . . .”
So the idea is that you had to do something to counteract your pure, destructive consumerism. For example, I don’t know, you contribute to charity and so on.
What Starbucks enables you, is to be a consumerist, without any bad conscience, because the price for the countermeasure, for fighting consumerism, is already included into the price of a commodity. Like, you pay a little bit more, and you’re not just a consumerist, but you do also your duty towards the environment, the poor, starving people in Africa, and so on and so on.
It’s, I think, the ultimate form of consumerism.
Matt Stabile is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of TheExpeditioner.com. You can read his writings, watch his travel videos, purchase the book he co-edited or contact him via email at any time at TheExpeditioner.com.