I cannot for the life of me figure out what “there is no ethical consumption under capitalism” is SUPPOSED to mean, considering people always use it to mean whatever they want it to mean

@alpine_thistle The meaning that I've learned is "Capitalism means all consumption comes, in some way, from a corporation, and corporations are inherently oppressive, which means that all consumption contributes to oppression in some way."

@Phoebe yeah, I guess I have a hard time figuring out what the *point* is supposed to be. “Don’t stress too much, because perfection is impossible”? Sure, I get it. “Don’t bother trying to make better choices, because it doesn’t matter until someone starts The Revolution”? No, I do not fuck with that

@alpine_thistle I think it's somewhere between both of them. I'd put it like "Because there is no ethical consumption under capitalism, the only changes you can make that actually help in the bigger picture are changes that resist capitalism." Resisting capitalism isn't necessarily starting a bloody revolution, it can be something as simple as supporting autonomy from corporations by buying from a co-op.

@alpine_thistle It basically means you can't use individual actions, specifically purchase decisions, to solve systemic issues, e.g. only using paper straws isn't going to fix ocean plastics, buying low-wattage bulbs isn't going to fix excessive carbon emissions from coal-fired power stations, etc.

It's Marxism's vox pop against market liberalism, basically.

@alis I guess I can just never tell what the person saying it wants me to do about it—stop stressing so much because perfection is impossible, or just give up and stop making all small efforts?

@alpine_thistle Sort of... both, usually?

Like, it's usually used in the context of "stop playing capitalism's game, and pretending Product X is more 'ethical' than Product Y, and instead focus on systemic, non-market solutions" (e.g. usually either government regulation and/or abolishment of private capital in Industry N, depending on the flavor of Marxist who's talking).

@alis In that case I find it kind of unhelpful and reductive, especially if there’s a product that makes a transparent effort to be “less bad” than its competitors? Idk, maybe it makes me a “milquetoast liberal,” but I feel like “less bad” is still better than “more bad” even if perfection isn’t possible here and now

@alpine_thistle The counter-argument is that the "less badness" is done as a market differentiation (usually those products are more expensive/"luxury" brands), and is also used to effectively distract people away from whole-of-industry regulation.

So for e.g. the existence of "free range" egg products is used as a distraction to keep consumers from demanding total bans on cage hen farming, or "plastic bag bans" as a distraction from fishing industry regulation.

@alis ehhh. Maybe I’m putting too much faith in the general public’s ability to care about more than one thing at once lol

That reminds me, I was just in a high-end store that marketed pleather as “vegan leather,” which... that’s called plastic, babe.

@alpine_thistle Lol yeah I've seen the "vegan leather" thing a lot. Which is kind of ironic, because there *is* actually a legitimate "vegan leather" product:

@alis lol yeah this one was definitely plastic. Sure, maybe it didn’t come from a cow, but there’s a lot of fish and birds that would object to the label that said “no animals were harmed”

@alpine_thistle In other words, the focus on individual (again, almost always) consumer choice allows both for companies to make *more* money by offering luxury products lines, and it keeps general public consciousness framed away from wide-scale regulation or even more drastic structural change (e.g. nationalizing all energy companies to force the adoption of sustainable energy, or whatever) by offering what gets presented as "individual choice".

@alpine_thistle And, like... yeah there are counter-arguments to that and this is the Extreme Tl;dr Mastodon version (lol), but... that's the high-level overview of what the catchphrase is getting at. 🤷

I've mostly heard it as the response to "I just found out the products I use were produced under inhumane working conditions. How can I buy things without feeling like I'm contributing to such an exploitative system?"

@SpaceCat idk whether the intent behind it is “don’t stress so much because perfection is impossible” or “ehhh don’t worry about trying better because everything is equally bad”

@alpine_thistle also, I find it funny that you asked that while I was in the process of writing a followup toot answering it.

so at least we're on the same page about why the phrase is confusing?

@SpaceCat yeah, I get the “description of the situation” implied in the quote, I just don’t see how it’s helpful beyond immediate reassurance?

@alpine_thistle I think the immediate reassurance is more helpful than you might give it credit for. That kind of situation can be a lot of peoples' first impression of left-wing discourse.
The actual conclusions and calls to action require a lot of context, and further explanation, but if people are scared off at the first hurdle, they're never going to actually get to that point.

@alpine_thistle I personally don't like using the phrase myself, cause it's not so much about solving the problem as it is avoiding the associated existential crisis


The way I always read it was “Going down to brass tacks in order to ensure your whatever was 100% ethically sourced is useless.” Because *somewhere* down the line it’s shitty - even if the producer is ethical, what about their machinery? The components of that machinery? The food that the employees eat? (1/2)

@alpine_thistle (2/2)

The raw material that makes up the factories that make the bread of the sandwiches of the assemblers of the industrial stampers that form the bobbins of the thread that Old MacDonald’s jeans are hemmed with?

Trying to go 100% ethical is a goddamn trap, and leads to nothing but paralysis instead of progress. That’s what it means.

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