I believe hundreds of people enjoyed “Black Friday” in Baku, and billions around the globe!
I do not remember since when, but adoption of US shopping tradition of Black Friday sales in Azerbaijan, accordingly importation of this consumer event together with episodes of violence definitely indicate the sparks of neoliberal capitalist consumer ideology, accompanied with barbaric consumer culture and ‘extreme shoppers’.
The incarnation of Black Friday in Azerbaijan, is an interesting phenomenon representing ‘oil rich’ country’s ‘poor people’s’ shopping behaviours, regardless economic situation, poverty, unemployment.
What are the motivations of people running to the shops, waiting for hours in the queues, expressing ‘violations’ towards the other? I will try to avoid putting down about hyper-conformist contemporary consumers, who are doing their shoppings online, without having troubles with violent queues.
Shopping is irretrievably associated with consumer society, which based on the ads represents identity and/or lifestyle, that promises self-gratification. The most recent newcomer to the consumerist landscape in Azerbaijan is shopping mall, which efficiently serves as ‘space for consumption’ with lots of coffee shops, brands and ‘non-space’ for socialisation of visitors.
In order to understand why people are running into shopping malls, we need to challenge the cultural context of such behaviours. Recently, the shopping practices have become inextricably stimulated by ‘unmissable deals’ promoted by the shops and brands, advertising and marketing industries. This stimulation comes along with anxiety and low self-esteem of people, particularly youth: “a lack of body confidence, eating disorders, shame, anxiety and unhealthy sexual attitudes and practices that are likely to last into adulthood”.
Accordingly, ‘discardable consumer identities’ are being created by mass production and ‘consumer demands’, which play an important role in maintaining apolitical subjects. Consumerist landscapes, shopping malls, are creating ‘affordable luxury’ where all consumers are able to craft their unique identity creatively, kudos to proliferation of mass-marketed, mass-produced consumer objects.
If we carefully observe the objects being mass-produced and labelled as ‘identity creator’ or ‘lifestyle deals’, it becomes obvious that those are mostly the products that ‘position’ a person; clothes, trainers and so on, which signify a position of social distinction within a symbolic order that recognises and reflects the narcissistic relation to consumer culture as freedom, creativity and success.
The anxiety created by mass-production, penetrated the modern individuals’ subjectivity, and is a wider sociocultural process. As Zizek characterised it in “For They Know Not What They Do: Enjoyment As a Political Factor”, as ‘reorientation of cultural superego. The identities are being individualised and manufactured by ads, and have more in common with the barbarian mentality. As Veblen points out individualised identities are being achieved through self-aggrandisement: a desire for admiration, or making others envy through violent means, which produces anti-social “clubs”. In other words, to make one person attractive, someone should be deemed ugly, unattractive, or someone to be sophisticated, other should be in box of being “common”.
When it comes to Black Friday sales, consumerism rewards the social culture that produces the violent behaviours and actions. In this regard, the violence produced by Black Friday sales, must be contextualised against the structural violence, which Zizek reasons as ‘inherent in the social conditions of global capitalism’. The structural violence of Black Friday is naturalised by social media users, who blame the people — consumers, avoiding the neoliberal capitalist markets’ interests and exploitation.
This is it for now, for the next session, I will try to argue that capitalism, and neoliberal marketing make people demobilised, apolitical, while presenting them a new consumer model: fancy citizen of country, who wears the best clothes, and positions him/her/themselves as being iconic.