The New York Times

Group Think

CAN PEOPLE FORM A REAL ‘COMMUNITY’ WHEN SOMEONE ELSE IS MAKING ALL THE RULES?

You can tell a lot about the cultural status of capitalism by how we refer to people who buy stuff. “Customer,” with its implicit deference — its suggestion that the buyer is always right — is now a relic of a bygone era. “Client” is formal and reserved for professional relationships. “Consumer,” with its air of piggish, Pac-Man voracity, is the slightly dehumanizing moniker most of us grew up with, but that was some time ago, before the rise of the brand as a cultic family. Now everyone who buys or uses or even just cares about a product or service has been collectively upgraded to something more ephemeral, almost spiritual, a loose association of souls brought together in one church-like congregation: a “community.”

Imagining such groups as little virtual villages is an old tech

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