Why Do People Buy Things They Don't "Need"?

Find the answer in Greece this summer with former Reason Editor Virginia Postrel.


Power of Glamour

One of the longest-lived criticisms of "capitalism" revolves ideas of "false needs." We've all heard variations of this. It runs through popular books such as Vance Packard's The Hidden Persuaders and Paul Goodman's Growing Up Absurd (the introduction of which is openly misogynistic, blaming women's uncontrolled desires for the newest appliances for men's subjugation to the grey-flannel corporate job scene).

Former Reason Editor Virginia Postrel has written extensively and persuasively on why consumption isn't simply some banal activity we engage in because our corporate or cultural overlords have programmed us thus. In books such as The Substance of Style and The Power of Glamour, she argues instead that consumption can be an act of self-creation and community building. Now, you can take a course with her on the topic this summer, in Greece. In this a purchase you don't "need"? Maybe, but as someone who has learned a hell of a lot from her even before I joined the staff of Reason over 20 years ago, I'm sure it will be an experience that you'll enjoy immensely.

She's teaching "Culture and Consumption: Why People Buy Things They Don't 'Need'" as part of a group called Unbound Prometheus and her course unfolds over July 23 through August 5th. Other classes are available too, and the setting is Kavala, a city of 70,000 on the north side of Greece. The cost of the program is $2,700 for one course and covers accommodations, which is a pretty great deal. The deadline to register if February 1, so if you're interested, check the materials out soon.

For more on the course, including the syllabus and reading materials (many of which will be familiar to Reason readers), go here.