The Bottom Line: Unfortunate Side Effects of Capitalist Culture

by Arthur McGovern (Nichols College)

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This monograph explores the role of culture in modern societies and the side effects that result when that role is distorted. The basic premise of this book is that many of the dominant cultural characteristics of modern life, like the ideologies and values associated with materialism and consumer capitalism, are cultural phenomena with influences that are in many ways problematic and in some ways downright detrimental to our sustained societal well-being.

I argue in this book that the globalized capitalist economic system has become increasingly efficient in terms of scale and scope, but has also become less humane in many regards; less connected to human needs and concerns. Of particular concern is the encroachment of economic interests into areas of human society that traditionally have been free from profit motives, or at least only minimally influenced by them; areas such as scientific research, the justice system, and even family relationships.

I suggest that there is a slow but steady intrusion into these areas of human life that were once considered off-limits to naked economic incentives and calculations. This intrusion puts the idea of America as a free and democratic society increasingly at risk when private economic stakeholders meddle in the political and cultural areas of society in ever more insidious ways to further their own enrichment at the expense of the public. Furthermore, the vast capitalist economic system is in many ways increasingly disconnected or disembedded from the contexts and regulations of traditional social relations as in the past.

Chapter 1 Capitalism and society
Market Logic
Modernity and the Rise of Modern Problems
Technocracy and Instrumentality
Colonization by the Capitalist Market
Summary Thoughts

Chapter 2 The Role of Culture
Frames and Ideas
The Strategic Use of Framing
Capitalism as Ideology
Homo Economicus: The Ideal Man
Summary Thoughts

Chapter 3 The Power and Problems of Capitalism
Winners and Losers
Historical Context
Market versus State Capitalism
Neoliberalism, or the Sad State of American State Capitalism
Capitalism and Social Justice
A Global Issue
Perverse Industries
The Illness Industry
Big Pharma and Little Kids
For-Profit Law Enforcement
Summary Thoughts

Chapter 4 Consumption Problems
Permissive Politics
From Puritanism to Consumerism
The Symbolism of Consumption
Consumer Identity as Social Identity
Economic intrusions
Marketing and Manipulation
Commodifying Culture
Summary Thoughts

Chapter 5 Manipulation, Mass Media, and Democracy
Democracy and the Public Sphere
Media and the Public Sphere
The Media and Elitism
Knowledge and Power
Passive Democracy and Political Illusions
Illusions of Representation
Illusions of Public Participation
Summary Thoughts

Chapter 6 Why Do These Problems Persist?
Educational Weakness
Unhelpful Biases
Reactionary Populism
Social Conservatism & Nostalgia

Concluding Thoughts

Arthur McGovern started his career as a computer network engineer before retraining as a research psychologist. His academic credentials include a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology and an M.S. degree in Gerontology, both from Oklahoma State University. His research interests have focused on areas like philosophical and theoretical psychology, social development, social issues, and culture. He has been a longtime member of a research team that studies health psychology and marginalized populations, and his work has been published in The Journal of the American Medical Association. More recently, Dr McGovern has turned his research attention to the cultural ramifications of the modern, globalized, economic system, which was triggered by the financial crisis of 2008 and its aftermath. An Austrian by birth, and an immigrant, Dr McGovern is also completely Americanized, but retains that sense of observing America from the outside. He is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology and Sociology at Nichols College in Massachusetts, and lives with his wife in Providence, Rhode Island.

Capitalism, consumer culture, ideology, critical theory, social psychology

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Bibliographic Information

Book Title

The Bottom Line: Unfortunate Side Effects of Capitalist Culture





Number of pages


Physical size

236mm x 160mm

Publication date

February 2017