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Futureless Vicissitudes: Gestural Anti-consumption and the Reflexively Impotent (Anti-)Consumer

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>31/12/2023
<mark>Journal</mark>Marketing Theory
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)585 - 606
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date31/01/23
<mark>Original language</mark>English


In this paper, we challenge the prevalent idea that anti-consumption functions as an ideological act of antagonism. We enlist the work of the late cultural theorist Mark Fisher to account for the reflexively impotent (anti-)consumer, a politically hollowed-out and knowingly helpless subject endemic to the futureless vicissitudes of semiocapitalist consumer culture. Drawing on netnographic data and interviews with “digital detoxers”, we explore how gestural – rather than transformational – anti-consumption emerges through individuals’ reflexive awareness of their political inertia, the lack of collective spirit to bring about improved conditions, and their perpetual attachment to market-based comforts and conveniences. Our analyses reveal three features that underpin the reflexively impotent (anti-)consumer’s resigned acceptance of the reigning political-ideological status quo: magical voluntarism, pragmatism, and self-indulgence. In the absence of any unifying and politically-centred solidarity projects, mere gestures of resistance are undertaken towards managing personal dissatisfactions with – instead of collectively transforming – their structural conditions.