This essay explores the relation between space—real and imaginary— and consumerist desire. Any process of modernization implies, on the one hand, social and geographical mobility that makes it possible for the individual to opt to change his or her condition and, on the other hand, a growing transparency of the world, where life of faraway people fascinates and attracts. Such a spatial disposition, where the object of desire always slips away into a different space, at the same time accessible and out of reach for now, supplies the fuel for the capitalist machine. It seems that such a disposition would be irrelevant in the case of socialism, known for its ideology of productivism and its practice of consumer shortage. I will argue that, in fact, Soviet-style societies were based on a similar logic, even if the “elsewheres” generating desire were castigated by propaganda and considered temporary phenomena by socioeconomic science. In fact, the explosion of consumerism after the fall of the Berlin Wall might show that the strategies of seduction under what we could call state capitalism were even more radical. Desire suddenly unbound could also account for the disappearance of critical thinking in Eastern Europe during the first decade of transition.
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Ivaylo Ditchev; Spaces of Desire: Consumer Bound and Unbound. boundary 2 1 February 2014; 41 (1): 101–112. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01903659-2409685
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