One of the things I talked about in The Metaphysics of War was the change from Nationalism to Consumerism that has been occurring in recent years and how this impacts the nature of war. Consumerism, of course, is my term, so I should perhaps offer some explanation.
Human beings define themselves in terms of their affiliations (to organizations) and activities. This has been used somewhat by psychologists to prepare psychological profiles of people. I can recall first hearing of it when the results of the original seven astronauts’ tests were made public in some magazine as a publicity boost for NASA. In those test results, all of the astronauts shared (at least in the mean) several such: husband; father; son; American citizen; military officer; church member; resident of a particular state or city.
I should mention that several historians have also used this idea to analyze the development of human organizations. For much of Europe, Nationalism largely collapsed with the fall of Rome circa 500 CE, and struggled back over the next thousand years or so.
Consumerism is a proclivity to define oneself in terms of what one consumes. It too is not new, having its roots in the same adoption of sedentaryism that gave rise to civilization and nation-states. What is significant is that increasingly, people are defining themselves not in terms of the affiliations with nations but in terms of what they consume. The extreme of this is people who define themselves by the specific brands of goods they use. A clear symptom of this is change is the fraction of the people who have more interest in what is available for purchase in local stores than in what is going on in local politics.
Other symptoms of this are the difficulties that libraries and museums are having in meeting their break even budget needs.[Link] [Link] The decline in support of these has been blamed variously on the electronic revolution, which is not wrong, but fundamentally information and knowledge are not highly prized in a consumerist society. The model has shifted from nerd to nebish.
One of the interesting aspects of consumerism is how it relates to religion. While consumerism appears blatantly materialist, it is a rather specific type of materialism with significant components of emotionalism and transience. AS such there is some evidence that religiously motivated terrorism may be a form of consumerism. While much of this terrorism is supposedly reactive to consumerist social changes, the characteristics of emotional gratification and destructive action, both to self and society, are shared with consumerism.
A striking example of this was recently described in a national feed article [Link] about Christian petite terrorism against overt atheists. This could equally well have been religion A fanatic harassing religion B adherent. We have known such to be common in religion for as long as we have had history, and probably prior. Less obvious, and almost universally denied, is the consumerist nature of religion for many believers.