Beyond Narcissism in American Culture of the 1980s

Essay Excerpt

Of course, not all Americans are involved in serial substitution. There are at least two other significant cultural and socioeconomic frames critical to understanding where the society is going: the new fundamentalism, implying a reverent return to something called "traditional values"; and those people who have been bypassed by the ongoing economic restructuring within the United States-the urban, and increasingly rural, population, the poor, many blacks, and many people who are simply dropping out in frustration. The obviously conflicting orientations of those who participate in serial substitution, the new fundamentalism, or entrenched poverty, suggest a complex social future for the United States. The likely struggle over these conflicting basic values (as opposed to their less likely mutually exclusive co-existence) in an increasingly competitive and fragile eco-nomic context can quickly turn overtly violent and/or involve covert forms of repression and constraint. In this article, however, we will focus on serial substitution, recognizing that this is only part of a more problematic and troubled American future. (Barnett and Magdoff, 414)

About the Author

Steve Barnett is President of Bardo Consulting where he designs and directs consumer research and strategy projects that use both ethnographic methods and real-time software data analysis. Dr. Barnett enjoys an international reputation for his expertise in consumer and market strategy, branding and business strategy development. He works with clients such as Proctor & Gamble, Pepsi, Colgate, Pfizer, Heineken, Cadbury Schweppes, Saatchi & Saatchi, Universal Studios, and Cap Gemini. His insights and accomplishments have been published in business books and periodicals including The Nissan Report and Advertising Age; American Demographics; and European Management Journal.

Dr. Barnett received his Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from the University of Chicago and has taught at Princeton, Brown, MIT, and The Wharton School. He is a pioneer is business anthropology, starting an ethnographic observation firm, The Cultural Analysis Group, focusing on consumer energy-related behavior and values, in the early 1980s. He has testified on the automobile industry, transportation mix, and energy consumption before the California Energy Commission and the US Congress. He was an advisor to the OECD on consumer trends. Dr. Barnett has published books and articles on global consumer culture, American cultural trends, energy use, corporate responsibility, Asian modernization, and the next iteration of consumer science. His next book, Consuming Beliefs, is forthcoming from The Wharton School Press in 2007.

JoAnn Magdoff is a Clinical Social Work/Therapist. 

"I collaborate creatively with individuals and couples: together we work to identify their hidden strengths. New communication strategies help them listen more effectively to themselves and to each other. We create positive alternative behaviors to their ingrained, habitual ineffective or destructive patterns of interaction. New behaviors and understanding strengthen each individual's sense of self as well as enhancing the couple or family. Working with couples I may also focus on pre-marital issues, infertility or efforts to maintain a collaborative, non-acrimonous separation. I will help the couple access the wisdom of accumulated experience they often overlook or ignore.

I am particularly attuned to helping individuals and couples achieve balance in their careers and lives. Times of major life-cycle changes including the first year of marriage, the birth of a child, retirement, aging, frail parents, death of a spouse, require thoughtful intervention.

I address developmental challanges late adolescentsface as they work through separating/individuating when they prepare to leave home. The 'Empty nest' has its own challanges couples confront. Learning to identify and incorporate energy bound up in various forms of depression is another area of my therapeutic expertise."

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