An Introduction

I suppose I have to start this somewhere, so...

I'm not sure if I'm actually going to be disciplined enough to keep this whole "blogging" thing going, but I would like to give it a try. For now I'm going to call this a summer holiday project, because that way there's no obligation to keep it going for any specified length of time. The idea of a 'project' is great, because it's so vague that there's nothing against which to measure success, and it naturally implies an end point of some sort, so the duration of this doesn't have to be entirely indeterminate.

I don't really have any idea at this point what sort of content I want on here. This post I suppose is going to be a bit academic (I've already slighted the idea of the concept of projects), which I guess is inevitable since I'm going to have to explain the title.

Some months ago, in a reading for my MGMT 314 course, I came across the following passage:

These systematic (rather than aberrational) failures of capitalism have inter alia contributed to a reflexive moment among many consumers, whereby the contents and production process of the commodity are increasingly scrutinised. This is especially so for the middle classes who are more wracked with an objectless guilt than other groups.
Fleming, P. (2009). Authenticity and the cultural politics of work: new forms of informal control. Oxford: Oxford University Press (pp 103-104).
Now as amazing as Fleming may be (I'm happy to admit I'm a bit of a fan of his), he's hardly qualified to make a statement as sweeping as that last sentence. He is, after all, a management theorist (here writing in the questionable field of corporate social responsibility). But I don't think that detracts from the power of that seemingly insignificant line.

There's a lot of truth in the point that he's trying to make there. We, as a generation, are perpetually dissatisfied. There is something about the lives that we live - the world that we have created for ourselves - which at some subconscious level we know is wrong. And so we desperately search for some sort of validation: some tiny thing to make us anything but a drain on the world. There are several observations that one could make about this phenomenon; but I will content myself here with two.

The first is that even our attempts to 'do something good' are an illusion: a construction of our artificial society. Declining a plastic bag at the supermarket is not 'good'. Buying someone a piece of paper that claims to represent a goat in ethiopia for Christmas is not 'good'. These may not be consumer goods, but they hold the same symbolic place in our society. They are things we do for ourselves. The fact that may or may not help others is incidental - we do them because they make us look a certain way.

My second point flows from the first: rather than alleviating the guilt that we are said to feel, these things are contributing to it. Even the things that society have told us are 'good' turn out to be plastic. What are we to do when even the supposedly 'good' things are merely reinforcing a social construct that created the guilt in the first place?

I have no intention of answering that question here. But that brief discussion should suffice to explain why this blog is entitled "an objectless guilt" and give some indication of what I want to do with it. In some small way, I hope that whatever content I end up posting here goes some way towards exploring this concept. At the very least, it should be read in light of the questions that the title poses.

Having said that, I don't intend for everything that I post here to be so deep. My other 'summer holiday project' is to read some books that I've never read before. I'm taking suggestions from friends as to what I should read, and I plan to post my thoughts on some of them here.

Well, I think that should serve as a sufficient introduction to what this will hopefully become. Chances are I'll never get around to posting anything else on here anyway, and this will become one of the 90-something-percent of blogs on the internet that never receive more than a single post (I read that somewhere).


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