View Full Version : Raymond Chandler on consumerism

Mike Field
10-26-2008, 07:38 PM
Raymond Chandler on consumerism -- and by extension on some of the causes of the global recession.

I came across this on an old thread (http://www.woodenboat.com/forum//showthread.php?t=37539). It's an extract from "The Long Good-Bye" --

‘There’s a peculiar thing about money,’ he went on. ‘In large quantities it tends to have a life of its own, even a conscience of its own. The power of money becomes very difficult to control. Man has always been a venal animal. The growth of populations, the huge cost of wars, the incessant pressure of confiscatory taxation — all these things make him more and more venal. The average man is tired and scared, and a tired, scared man can’t afford ideals. He has to buy food for his family. In our time we have seen a shocking decline in both public and private morals. You can’t expect quality from people whose lives are a subjection to a lack of quality. You can’t have quality with mass production. You don’t want it because it lasts too long. So you substitute styling, which is a commercial swindle intended to produce artificial obsolescence. Mass production couldn’t sell its goods next year unless it made what it sold this year look unfashionable a year from now. We have the whitest kitchens and the most shining bathrooms in the world. But in the lovely white kitchen the average American housewife can’t produce a meal fit to eat, and the lovely shining bathroom is mostly a receptacle for deodorants, laxatives, sleeping pills, and the products of that confidence racket called the cosmetic industry. We make the finest packages in the world, Mr Marlowe. The stuff inside is mostly junk.’

How's that for an enlightened comment? It was published over a half-century ago, in 1953.

But I hope he was wrong about a tired, scared man not being able to afford ideals. I reckon there are a lot of tired and scared people in the US right now, but if ever the US needed an ideal to try to attain this is the time.

10-26-2008, 07:56 PM
When I read Chandler I was a little too young to appreciate his philosophical side, but this sounds like something right out of the Frankfurt School.

Keith Wilson
10-26-2008, 09:08 PM
In our time we have seen a shocking decline in both public and private morals.People have been writing things like this as long we've known how to write, and saying it long before. Middle-aged Homo erectus would sit around the campfire and complain about how the younger generation was going to hell.