George Ritzer – University of Maryland
The Dehumanized Consumer: Does the Prosumer Offer Some Hope?
Being human in consumer society is, paradoxically, no easy matter. In this paper I plan to address that issue from the perspective of some of my recent and current work in the sociology of consumption. First, is the issue of the struggle against the dehumanization Max Weber associated with the rationalization of society and I, more recently, linked to both the McDonaldization of society (Ritzer, 1993/2011) and the cathedrals of consumption (Ritzer, 1999/2010). How human can we expect consumers to be in dehumanized consumption settings? Second, there is the issue of the struggle against the global proliferation of what I termed “nothing” and the search for “something” (Ritzer, 2004/2007). Does the increase in “nothing” and decrease in “something” make humanized consumption less and less likely? Finally, the recent expansion of the prosumer and prosumption (the simultaneity of production and consumption) raises new issues that relate to being human in consumer (or is it prosumer?) society (Ritzer and Jurgenson, 2010). First, is the consumer who prosumes (and most do) more or less human? Second, does being a prosumer rather than simply being a consumer give one more power? Third, is the prosumer really more human, more powerful? Or is prosumption more a tool to exploit people to a greater degree thereby making them less human?