This is the thirty-first volume in Religion and Public Life, formerly This World, a series on religion and public affairs. This ongoing series seeks to provide a wide-ranging forum for differing views on religious and ethical considerations. The essays grouped together in Culture and Consumption discuss the phenomenon of consumption, an identifiable and pervasive feature of American culture that distinguishes it from other national cultures. The lead article provides an insight into the long-standing pattern of consumption that has been progressively elevated into social policy in America. This is a balanced analysis of the history of the consumption cultural ethos beginning with the undermining of the Native American Culture and ending with Wilsonian Liberal-Internationalism and the demise of the moral authority of organized labor. This commercialization of culture has always competed with the funding vision of a dispassionate social order in which custom, deferential politics, and continuation of traditional hierarchal values would be the constitutional agenda. Another contributor argues that the emergence of the democratic-consumer state in America was anticipated in de Tocqueville's observation that "in democracies nothing has brighter luster than commercea." Other contributor essays treat issues such as the New Class and the consumer state; technology's triumph at the expense of the social and natural worlds; and argue against the materialist perspective in addiction. Culture and Consumption includes the following major contributions: "The Dialectic of Consumption: Materialism and Social Control" by David Brown; "Religion, Social Science and the Ironies of Parasitic Modernity" by Guy Alchon; The Dilemma of Hypermodernity" by Mark Wegierski; "Toward an Epistemology of Addiction" by Leonard Kaplan and Vince Rinella. Also included are book reviews by Martha Davis and Conrad Kanagy. In a concluding essay, Gabriel Ricci reviews Jerome Bruner's The Culture of Education. Culture and Consumption is part of an annual survey of religion and public life that provides relevant information and ideas about significant issues of the day.
Religion and Public Life promotes topical interdisciplinary research and discussion on wide-ranging ethical and philosophical issues at the intersection of religion and civil society. The series provides a platform for international scholarly discussion through the publication of thematic issues that cut across disciplines. Recent issues have addressed Politics in Theology, Faith, War and Violence, Faith in Science, and Justice and the Politics of Memory. A forthcoming issue, Natural Communions, addresses eco-spirituality and theological naturalism.