Grant McCracken is a whip smart cultural anthropologist working in the modern day consumer arena.
Here’s how he sees us behaving during times of economic tumult:
Roughly speaking, consumers have two modalities: surging and dwelling.
In the surging modality, consumers have momentum. We have a vivid sense of forward motion. Life is getting better. Each purchase is an improvement onthe last one. Clothes change with fashion. The material world teems with new features, new things, new opportunities, new excitement. We look ahead constantly, keeping one foot in the present, putting one in the future. The good life is America is always a better life. That’s the fundamental promise of the consumer society.
In the dwelling modality, the consumer is not forward looking, but concentrated on the here and now. Now most of life’s pleasure comes from counting one’s blessings. This is a dwelling modality, because the individual is no longer in transit, racing towards a better tomorrow. Now the consumer is focused on what is good about what one has. The consumer stops anticipating and starts savoring.
Listen to the poetry of that. No one has made the downturn seem like a more pleasant place to be.