The defining feature of ‘postmodern’ capitalism is the direct commodification of our experience itself: what we are buying on the market are less and less products (material objects) that we want to own, and more and more ‘life-experiences’ — experiences of sex, eating, communicating, cultural consumption, participating in a lifestyle — or, as Mark Slouka put it succinctly, ‘we become the consumers of our own lives’. We no longer buy objects; we ultimately buy (the time of) our own life. Michel Foucault’s notion of turning one’s self itself into a work of art thus gets an unexpected confirmation: I buy my bodily fitness by visiting fitness clubs; I buy my spiritual enlightenment by enrolling in courses on transcendental meditation; I buy the satisfactory self-experience of myself as ecologically aware by purchasing only organic fruit, etc. Although these activities may have beneficial effects, their main importance is clearly ideological.
—Slavoj Žižek, The Courage of Hopelessness, (London: Penguin, 2018), 21.
I appreciate this insight. I’ve long been bemused by acquaintances who, while seemingly obsessed with “self-improvement” of one sort or another or with various popular culture distractions, especially fantasy and science fiction related, actually seem less engaged with the cultural artifact or spiritual teaching and more involved with the act of consuming the thing focused upon. For people who conceive of themselves as above all consumers, rather than citizens or intellectuals or artisans or connoisseurs, what is of interest is in fact not the thing consumed but the transaction.