Ask a Socialist: “Can I be a socialist and still enjoy shopping?”

By Jeremy Mele

So here’s something fun about me: I have more books than I think I will ever read, yet I still, regularly, visit Amazon or, preferably, a local bookstore to buy more. I could stop myself, but I choose not to; I like buying books! Maybe I’m hardwired that way, or maybe it’s a part of human nature (though I think the concept is very overrated). Whatever the case, shopping for and buying things like books (and comic books and video games) is something I enjoy doing.

Unfortunately, there’s no ethical consumption under capitalism. As a socialist, I recognize that at some, if not every, level of the production of the things that humans sell, buy, and consume there is going to be exploitation. The exploitation of workers—who are coerced into selling their labor for a fraction of the value they produce—the exploitation of animals, and the exploitation of the environment are all baked into capitalism’s DNA. As long as it exists, various systems of exploitation will be maintained and reinforced by capitalism and its relentless drive for profit: a drive that seeks to pay workers as little as possible, to keep animals in cruel, yet cost effective, spaces, and to strip the environment for all it is worth, destroying its beauty in the process. And this, of course, is done to create the products that capitalists can sell to us to turn a profit.

That’s why, as socialists, we must tirelessly fight for a better world; a world where capitalist exploitation of human, animal, and nature is a thing of the past. Will there ever be a utopia free of all violence and exploitation? I do not know. I hope so, but even if that is never the case, that does not mean we can stop striving. A better, fairer world is possible, even if not perfect. We need to fight for it to free the workers. We need to fight for it to save the planet. We need to fight for it to end exploitation.

…And we need to fight for it so that we can go shopping without feeling guilty.

Have a question for Ask a Socialist? Email it to: DSA.PortlandMaine@gmail.com

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