Culture and Consumerism: The Statue of Luxury

GIF of the artwork, ‘Statue of Luxury’

Major Themes: Consumerism, Capitalism, Consumer’s choice

The Statue of Liberty is a colossal neoclassical sculpture erected on Liberty Island in New York, United States since October 28, 1886. The monument was a gift from France proposed by Edouard de Laboulaye, a French political thinker, to commemorate Americans’ fight for abolition of slavery in 1886. Laboulaye believed that abolition not only eradicates immorality, but more importantly he perceived it as a means to protest against authoritarian tendencies from France at the time. 

Standing tall is the figure of Libertas, a robed Roman liberty goddess. She embraces a torch with a gilded flame with her right hand raised high above her head, while carrying a tabula ansata in her left arm, inscribed in Roman with “JULY IV MDCCLXXVI” (July 4, 1776)— the date of the U.S Declaration of Independence. Today, she serves as an internationally recognized symbol of freedom.

In the era of Technological Revolution, a new form of repression has arisen. The conquest of global secular capitalism has arrived, driven by the authority of consumer culture. Material goods we purchase resemble social statuses and furthermore embodies an emotional attachment to them. Goods are not only purchased for their material aspects, but rather for what they universally symbolize— their connotations and reflection of one’s value and identity in this world. 

As we enter society and begin to develop a sense of agency, it becomes inevitable to conform to the structure of social consumer culture and capitalism. Quoted from sociologists, Josée Johnston and Judith Taylor, “Consumerism puts forward a worldview in which consumption is at the center of meaningful existence and shopping is the ideal form of participation in struggles for social change.” Equating personal happiness with acquiring material possessions results in an unsustainable and material-obsessed world which we live in today. We’ve become accustomed to this lifestyle, allowing it to bleed into our everyday lives, conversations and agendas. 

How did we confuse this modern culture of muddling freedom with consuming more and more as a source of liberation? Is freedom defined by having an abundance of products and services? 

It is important for us to be self-aware and question whether we are living a life of liberty or luxury.

Markus Walz, Sean Hingston and Mikael Andéhn. “The magic of ethical brands: Interpassivity and the thievish joy of delegated consumption.” Ephemera: theory and politics in organization. Vol.14(1) 57-80.
Zizek, Slavoj. “Fat Free Smoking and Absolutely No Smoking: Why Our Guilt About Consumption is All Consuming.” Http:// 
RSA Animate, “Ethics of Consumption-Cultural Captialism”:
America’s Story: The Statue of Liberty Arrived in New York Harbor, June 19, 1885: Description: Library of Congress: America’s Story telling about the arrival of the Statue of Liberty
American Heritage: An Adventure in Liberty: Description: Cut apart The New Colossus poem

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