Sheep magazine Archive 3: issues 18-24


Lefty online magazine: issue 18, December 2016 to issue 24, May 2017

showing how time is spent immediately after shoppers return from Ikea:

just under 25% involves making ‘that’s what she said’ jokes, more than

40% involves swearing, and a substantial proportion includes taking

whatever you were assembling apart because you did it wrong.


But here’s the twist, diagnosed by the Frankfurt School 70 years ago. We

all know that when we buy Ikea we’re buying flat-packed misery, but we

carry on shopping regardless. Our knowing cynicism about shopping

doesn’t stop us buying, since we’re too ideologically entrenched. As Adorno

and Horkheimer put it: ‘The triumph of advertising in the culture industry

is that consumers feel compelled to buy and use its products even though

they see through them.’


Happiness rises in line with material possessions

On the contrary. ‘Strong materialist values are associated with a pervasive

undermining of people’s wellbeing, from low life satisfaction and

happiness to depression and anxiety, to physical problems such as anxiety,

and to personality disorders, narcissism, and antisocial behaviour,’ wrote

psychologist Tim Kasser in The High Price of Materialism.

For the Frankfurt School, the pursuit of happiness through shopping and

material acquisition is obscene. Benjamin wrote: ‘There is no document of

civilisation which is not at the same time a document of barbarism.’ One

application of this dictum is that the pursuit of happiness through buying

consumer goods involves erasing the human misery and exploitation that

made the degrading and, ultimately, self-defeating pursuit possible. Merry



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