Emeritus professor of Government at Manchester University, Norman Geras, author of Marx and Human Nature and 'The Controversy about Marx and Justice' refutes in a new post on his blog the notion alluded to in The Thoughtful Dresser that shopping is often dismissed byt critics from the left as a form of false consciousness. Refutes, that is, their accusation.
So, the first step in my defence is just to say that, in the way that the world is now organized, shopping is a straightforward means towards taking care of one's appearance; it's the instrumentality of a basic human good. But, it might be said, this is just shopping of the kind anyone can do - even me, even people who take no special joy from the activity but treat it in a matter of fact way, as the mere means to a necessary end. A deep interest in shopping such as Linda describes and commends is not necessarily part of taking care of one's appearance. We can shop instrumentally without developing any deep interest in shopping, shop without passion.
However - the second step in the defence - one can do anything without developing a deep interest in that particular thing, without its becoming a passion. All the same, people do - they develop passions of one kind and another. They become passionate collectors of this or that - books, stamps, art - passionate about literature or music or movies or sport (or just about their team), become bird-watchers, train-spotters, students of many different kinds of subject. Each of us has a life to dole out as we see fit, subject to meeting our various obligations to others. An interest in shopping is as legitimate a pursuit within the range of human interests as any other. Save for those who urge upon us an ethic of devoting all our disposable time and resources to helping people in need, no one is well placed to condemn the interest someone else may have in shopping. And the ethic of comprehensive self-sacrifice may be good for saints, but applied to the generality of humankind it is mean and unbearable.
But what about shopping as an obsession? What when it becomes pathological? The problem, then, is with the obsession, the pathology, not with the shopping. Any pursuit can be taken too far. And what about the fact that not everyone is in a position to enjoy shopping, because some don't have the means for it? This is a critique of systemic inequality and poverty and their effects and it is a valid one. But deployed by anyone who has disposable income which they use for (non-shopping) enjoyments of their own rather than directing it towards people living closer to the margins, it is a hypocrisy. Unless you believe that those living above the level of the bare necessities - whatever these are taken to be - should part with all their surplus income, you allow that each of us has a right to some enjoyments. It is not then for you to say what mine should be or vice versa. I won't be going round with Linda spending time looking at scarves. I doubt she'd want to join me in following all five days of a Test match. You plays it as you feels it. But there is a right to that for everyone.