Marx in his analyses made a point of ignoring moralistic debates. His analyses are material analyses. Materialist analysis is important because it helps to dispel the hyperindividualist notions that are especially prevalent in bourgeois society. Here are some important points regarding consumption:
- "ethical consumption" implies "voting with your wallet," an entirely bourgeois notion that suggests that it is through "market forces" that are influenced by consumers that determine what is produced. This could not be further from the truth in the overwhelming majority of situations in market economy.
- The existence of products and services has very little to do with what "consumers" want. For example, with consumer technology, the "need" to have a given things is constructed socially and technically. Certain products and services are deemed necessary for the consumers through various forms of manipulations, such as planned obsolescence. Apple created a "desire" for people to want the latest iPhone through the use of planned obsolescence. Many people find themselves desiring the newest iPhone because their current iPhone was rendered slow and ineffective by iOS updates.
- The current state of the housing market is not the product of what consumers wanted or what they deemed to be ethical. The lack of affordability in housing has nothing to do with the "supply of housing." Not only does the notion of supply and demand have no influence here, it is outright contradicted. In general, there are over twice the number of vacant homes to the number of homeless persons in America. In cities like NYC, there are many perfectly liveable units that are not on the market because the landlord, or the realtor, intends for these living spaces to go unoccupied so that housing prices may increase across the board. "Scarcity" is invented.
- Some radlibs have tried to frame the issue of gentrification as a moral issue. They say "How dare these mostly white yuppies move into traditionally mostly non-white low income neighborhoods, pushing out the original inhabitants?" This framing is not only non-materialist but it obscures the fundamental material forces at play. What actually happens is that landlords and realtors decide that they want to push out the so-called "lowlives" and increase the rents or sell the properties at a higher threshold than the current inhabitants/tenants can afford. Landlords have a material interest to do the things they do. Morality has nothing to do with it. Realtors have a material interest to do the things they do. It has nothing to do with morality. Landlords can realtors can have their actions be judged as moral or immoral but such judgements could just as easily be judged with bourgeois morality, letting them off the hook for being good little Capitalists. Morality is generally constructed. There is no objective morality. Only relative, contextual morality.
- Ethics with purchasing decisions are often the phantasm of marketing. Starbucks claims its beanwater is "ethically sourced." Many grocery stores hype up their "organic" wares as not only healthy but imply that it is more ethical to purchase organic food.
- If your concern about ethical consumption is whether it is unethical if you purchase an item on Amazon on the same day that Amazon workers are striking, your concern isn't about ethical consumption but whether or not your behavior is conducive in bringing about socialism. But your consumption alone can never bring about socialism. Lack of consumption in this situation, abstaining from buying from Amazon when Amazon workers are on strike, is not also bringing about socialism, but it does show solidarity. Your actions as a lone individual consumer do not matter terribly much, but if you construct your abstention as in solidarity with striking workers, , if you tell others to not purchase anything from Amazon on that day and tell others to join you in not buying from Amazon for the duration of the strike, you are doing far more than "voting with your wallet." You are raising the contradictions. You are radicalizing others by creating a revolutionary context.
- If your concern stems from buying an AirBnB lease - see the point about housing.