Archive Authors E.J. Hutchinson Nota Bene

The Consumer as Cultist

An interesting, if brief, column in the most recent Atlantic:

One of the hallmarks of a cult is that members unite to oppose what they see as an oppressive or illegitimate mainstream culture. Collaborative-economy companies—from Airbnb to the ride-sharing service Uber—have proved particularly savvy at exploiting this sense, and in so doing converting both merchants and consumers (the line between which sometimes blurs). But companies like Apple show that the creation of a cult mentality can be just as powerful with customers of regular goods—even products that have grown so popular, they would seem to be poor markers of individuality or special identity.

I would only add that pursuit of the analogy might be fruitful in the reverse direction as well, for illuminating the manufacturing of religious identity.

By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.