In City Journal, Nicole Gelinas reviews Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole, by Benjamin R. Barber:
Somewhere in Consumed, Benjamin Barber, a civil-society professor at the University of Maryland and the author of the 1995 book Jihad vs. McWorld, has a serious point to make: many Americans have opted out of a common civic culture based on shared values and have turned inward instead, to a relentless, infantile narcissism that free markets only encourage. But Barber can never quite grasp this point in his own book, or make practical suggestions on how to deal with the problem. Instead, he wildly overreaches and couches everything he writes in apocalyptic terms.
For the flipside of Barber’s argument, one that has been made frequently by a surprisingly puritanical left probably even before Peter Seeger and Malvina Reynolds’ ticky-tacky-screedy “Little Boxes” singalong, it’s worth rereading Virginia Postrel’s The Substance of Style.