Consumer Capitalism Meets Inquiry

  • Wayne Henry


Introduction: We, in the educational community, would be remiss if we did not arm our students with the reflective tools to handle pervasive influences in our society that are detrimental to their long-term well-being. Such a determining yet invisible force is Consumer Capitalism (CC). That it is invisible and hence particularly pernicious, is a function of the fact that it is so pervasive. If we lived in an all-blue world, we would not recognize that we were surrounded and hence influenced by the colour blue. In this paper, then, it will be assumed that any serious inquiry requires an alternative from which to examine the issue in question; that if we want to analyze whether or not it is a good thing to live in an all-blue world, we would have to be able to at least imagine what it would be like to live in, say, a yellow world. Thus, in what is to follow, I will briefly describe the basic dynamics of capitalism and some of its most pernicious dangers and then go on to describe a potential alternative to CC, known as Natural Capitalism (NC). It is important to keep in mind that I am not, here, making a case for NC per se, any more than I would be making a case for yellow if I wanted to encourage an examination of the potential dangers of living in an all-blue world. What I am arguing is that in order to examine the forces of capitalism, and in order to avoid a straw person argument, it is imperative that we not only outline the perils of consumerist forces, but also that we construct an alternative that is at least not implausible so that we can examine from without what it is like to live within. After briefly outlining these two positions, I will then go on to sketch how one might construct a community of philosophical inquiry (CPI) with regard to these two positions, with the goal being that students will begin to acquire the tools to be more reflective of the consumer forces that impinge upon them and which potentially rob them of their capacity for self-legislation.