{Empty title} | The Nation

Professor Jacoby's critique of Barber's "infantilism" does little to settle claims about the nature of maturing capitalism or the essential simplicity of the conjunction between production, consumption and consumerism. It does, however, alert us to the pride and profit that advertisers take in not only understanding but contriving a culture of mass consciousness so highly amenable to pervasive (persuasive) social control.

Barber ignored or is unaware that some years ago George Ritzer's MacDonaldization outlined the systematic processes underlying the social-economic imperatives that drive what Barber otherwise strikes at: efficiency, predictability and calculability, or a business's need to reduce or fix cost and ensure margin by constantly shifting portions of the burden to customers and machines. In each case, both the variablity of customer and employee need are dimished over time to a robot-like symbiosis. Ritzer concludes that a potential for irrationality is built into this highly rationalized process.

Barber's conceptual apparatus is not actually drawn from Max Weber's Protestant Ethic but more a clone of Weber's 'ideal type' characteristics associated with modern, bureaucratic institutional life and the 'iron cage' that can unfold and has on many occasions. Neither Professor Jacoby nor, apparently, Barber see Ritzer's association in these matters; however, they do see and agree the problem and offer remedial advice -- Jacoby's being the wiser though more difficult to entertain.