The Tyranny of Choice

I’m not even sure what I just read—it was muddled and didn’t make a clear argument. Renata Salecl writes about late capitalism’s insidious pushing of the choice agenda as a way to make us all feel better, but it’s really just making us anxious. We’re drowning in self-help guides but not getting any better. We put on a happy positive face that ends up just masking the need to “rethink the nature of social inequalities” and find other ways to let capitalism develop. We’re pressured to be “unique” but also to conform; therein lies the power of celebrity. An arbitrary popular figure can give you clues on how to dress/talk/walk/sing/do business and you’re accepted. “This reflects a major change in the way that the individual identifies with social ideas under late capitalism, a shift that has also occurred in the way people today identify with authorities chosen and self-imposed and how they perceive themselves in society as a whole.” We’re essentially told to create an identity by copying one from someone else.

The one unexpected delight I got from the book was finally an explanation as to why people insist on videotaping every moment of their vacation or big event: interpassivity, coined by Robert Phaller, is what occurs between an individual and their proxy who is tasked with experiencing something for the other, like the Serbian women hired to cry at funerals. “… by the same token, people record films they will never watch because the recording equipment is in a way watching the film for them.”

Unfortunately, not a good choice of a book.