September 26, 2002, Episode Nineteen: Kapitalist Kids
This week we talked with Dr. Dan Cook, Assistant Professor in Advertising at University of Illinois. "Imaginations can be colonized," asserts Cook in an article in LIP magazine last year. This colonization of children's imaginations are part of an overall change in the way we think about childhood and serves to further the hegemony of capitalism, and specifically, consumption. What can a parent do? What should we all be doing?
When Henry Ford said that he had to pay his workers enough for them to be able to buy the cars they were making, he was recognizing a basic component of economics: supply and demand. Advertising has made the relationship between supply and demand much more complicated. No where is this relationship more complex than in children's advertising. Children do not generally have jobs in North America. They are consumers first and foremost and paying attention to their consumption is one way to crack the consumer nut. Do children demand "Pokemon" or is the supply of "Pokemon" and the advertising meant to sell that supply driving children to purchase them. We discuss the ways in which oligarchical institutions (media and education) have worked together to support this phenomenon of Kapitalist Kids.
Mommy, pleeeeeze!!! Even if you don't have kids, you've been in a store where you've heard this loud cry of desperation from an eight year old exclaiming that their short life will soon come to an end if mom does not purchase a toy or game immediately. Parents are often so tired of fighting and so grateful that their kid is normal in a world with so many possibilities for abnormality that they acquiesce to the demand rather than examine the implications of the purchase. Other parents say "no" but feel a great deal of guilt and fear for their children. Are they creating a world of loneliness for their child?
Dan Cook, Assistant Professor, Department of Advertising at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, studies advertising and kids. He is currently working on a book about childhood consumption and has edited a volume called "Symbolic Childhood." Among his publications is an insightful article in the online magazine "LIP" called "Lunchbox Hegemony?" We talked with Dan in a recent phone interview about hegemony, consumption, advertising and the commodification of childhood as we look at Kapitalist Kids.
copyright by Pattie Thomas and Carl Wilkerson 2002
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