How both the economy and culture are driven by the choices we make every day
Richard Denniss talks lawn, lattes and the cult(ure) of consumption in the latest Australian Quarterly Magazine.
“20 years ago most Australians were content to choose between Nescafé or Moccona when they felt like a coffee; today millions of Australians queue to pay $4 for a flat white, a product that didn’t even exist 30 years ago. What has become known as ‘cafe culture’ is now a major determinant of the shape of the Australian economy.”
— Richard Denniss
While newspaper columnists attribute millennials’ inability to buy a house to their love of espresso coffee and avocado on toast, in his latest essay for Australian Quarterly Magazine Richard Denniss suggests that our obsession with ‘brunchables’ might teach us something else about culture and the economy.
Continuing on the theme of his book Curing Affluenza where he asks the question:
“Why do we buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t know?“
Richard Denniss shows that a growing culture of consumption in Australia has its own consequences:
“Just as the ancient Egyptians used their spare economic capacity to build pyramids, and the ancient Chinese built walls, modern consumer capitalism builds mountains of unused appliances, unworn clothes and uneaten food.”
Cultural changes don’t only lead to heaping mounds of rubbish, as Richard Denniss rightly points out “the abolition of slavery, the banning of asbestos and the end to commercial whaling were all cultural shifts that drove significant economic shifts.”
And while we spend a lot of time talking about the economy, we spend very little time trying to understand how our culture shapes it.
Richard Denniss argues that both the economy and culture are driven by the choices we make every day:
“A significant shift away from consumer spending on imported clothes and new appliances and towards increased consumer spending in cafes and on appliance repair would have a significant shift on the shape of the economy and, most likely, lead to a significant increase in employment.”
So while many millenials may not be able to buy houses, it could be argued our café going tendencies could be driving growth in employment — shaping the economy and the culture at the same time.
You can read Richard Denniss’s complete essay From Lawn to Lattes — The Cult(ure) of Consumption in the PostCapitalism issue of Australian Quarterly.
This issue was so popular the printed issue sold out. As a result, Australian Quarterly are now offering readers this full issue free: Postcapitalism, from the Australian Quarterly Magazine
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