Putting Nothing in Boxes and Selling It

[Richard K. Payne (bio at bottom) wrote the following post in response to the previous one, Aggressive Buddhist Appeasement.]

Matthias Steingass’ discussion suggests an additional issue, rooted in the very nature of “Buddhism as religion.” As part of almost any society engaged in economic exchange of one kind or another (i.e., not limited to late Capitalism), the attempt to commodify the intangible moves to the realm of brand-identification (“liking” as Steingass says) and avoids critical evaluation. “Brand-claims” can include indistinguishably meaningful and meaningless ones (one of the things that makes it hard to talk about “religion” as a general category).

The consumer is motivated in the case of intangibles to make purchases (as distinct from making critical and informed judgements) according to qualities attributed to the product by its promoter. What, for example, distinguishes Fiji Water from Great Value Purified Water (sold via Walmart)? One is reminded here of Bourdieu’s concept of “distinction.” Which would the trendy person prefer to be seen consuming? Which would the thrifty person prefer to be seen consuming? Product as reflection of self-image, rather than evaluation of any objective characteristic of the product itself—because the objective characteristics of the product itself are intangibles related to consumer concerns other than the product itself, such as quenching thirst. (Personally I think Voss has groovier bottling, while I like the level of carbonation of Pellegrino and Perrier, the latter also having pretty groovy bottling.)

Awakening may be considered to be the perfect product, even better than experiences. Continue reading “Putting Nothing in Boxes and Selling It”