Rehearsals for War: Capitalism & the Transformation of Children into Consumers

In the last few years, coinciding with the Bush regime’s permanent “War on Terror,” there has been an increasing tendency for military iconography to appear in the artifacts of children and youth consumer culture.1 Take, for instance, this recruitment advertisement for the National Guard, featured in a recent issue of Teen Vogue. Designed in the style of “before and after” commercials for beauty products, it shows a young woman transform herself from a consumer into a soldier. In the “before” picture she is overloaded by the artifacts of consumer culture—two sunglasses, a pink undershirt and cover, a yellow scarf, and a red bag—to the point of distraction. In the “after” picture, the clothes are pared down to a brown uniform decorated with medals, and the accessories disappear, leaving behind a purposeful, directed soldier in clean-cut, streamlined hair tucked under a cap. Of course, she still wears make-up so as not to completely undermine the main message of the magazine, which is, after all, to sell beauty products. Channel One, the television program children are compelled to watch in schools, has recently started to market the Marines and the National Guard along with deodorants and cell phones. Not to be left behind, high-fashion designers too have turned to the military for inspiration although their designs show greater “research” so as to add to their cultural capital—Ann Lui’s recent collection was inspired by the American wars of the 18th and 19th century.2 In Carbondale, the small town in Southern Illinois where I live, Santa appeared in the Mall last year on a humvee with soldiers on his side. Two years ago, our local K-Mart sold Easter baskets with toy soldiers and guns placed in the midst of candy and eggs.

Of course, it is a travesty that festivals of birth should be turned into celebrations of death, children’s play into lessons in war, and war sold as a style. However, if we learn anything from Marx it is that the ruling ideas of the ruling class are always unstable and so have to be reasserted over and over again. The presence of military iconography in youth culture today is one such contested space, an open display of the unbearable contradictions of capital, which sows the seeds of its own destruction in every new ground that it breaks.

Ever since they were discovered as a niche market in the post-war US economic boom, children have been socialized as consumers, a process that deepened radically in the last two decades of the twentieth century.3  The demand that they now turn into soldiers entails an entirely new orientation: from thinking of themselves as atomized individuals who pursue their own self-enhancement, they are now being asked to willingly sacrifice themselves for a cause bigger than themselves. The Bush regime has tried to curtail resistance by simply denying there is any contradiction between the self-sacrifice and the self-enhancement. As Bush explains it, doing your patriotic duty today means that you must do both: shop at home and fight overseas in order to protect “our way of life and freedoms” which is, to shop some more. In other words, you must shop till you, quite literally, drop!

The question anyone who has read Marx or lived on the wrong side of the tracks asks is, who does the shopping and who does the dropping, or, even more pointedly, whose children do what?  The importance of children to the socialist movement can be understood from the very meaning of the word proletariat, which, Terry Eagleton reminds us, was derived form the word, proles meaning children. Prolicide, refers to the act of killing one’s children. The proletariat, then is the class too poor to serve the state by property who serves it instead by producing children as labor-power.4
It is quite commonplace for those who are opposed to the US-led war against Iraq and Afghanistan to blame the consumerism of the people of the US, particularly their “addiction” to oil, for the war.  This position shifts the blame from a system to the people, making no distinctions between those who own and manage the system and those who are exploited by it. It turns consumerism into a curable pathology rather than the understandable outcome of social, economic, and political policy that needs to be transformed. A lesson that we can learn from the current transformation of children from consumers into soldiers is that war and consumerism are both structural outcomes of capital.5 In other words, consumers do not need war—but capitalism needs both consumers and war. Then, what needs to be changed becomes clear.

Why Capitalism needs consumers and how it commercialized childhood

Capital needs the consumer for its survival. If we refuse to buy market-produced commodities, the capital invested into making them cannot be turned into profit, i.e., into capital. Consequently, the history of capital is entwined with the production of consumers: finding new markets, making the same consumers buy more of the same, or creating new products and needs. As Marx indicated, “every real and possible need” becomes a means to “lead the fly to the gluepot,” i.e., to lure us to part with our money in exchange for market produced commodities.6

Children were invented as consumers, as a new market in the post-war boom that transformed the US into a consumer society.  This transition was based on a shift in the mode of production from the earlier factory-centered, mass sales-oriented Fordist mode to what David Harvey, among others, has characterized as the Post-Fordist or flexible accumulation mode; a process that has continued at an accelerated pace since.7  It led to an increase in the numbers of new commodities and in the speed with which they appeared on the market shelves, made possible by new technologies and business practices, including shifting manufacturing to low-wage Third World countries. All this was matched by an expansion of consumer culture.

Consequently, an unprecedented number of children’s consumer goods—not only tangible products like clothes and toys but also services, such as media culture, spectacles, and entertainment—made their appearance. The shift to fashion or style, from function or use, was central to this expansion. As David Harvey elaborates, while there are physical limits to material goods that can be consumed (even taking into account Imelda Marcos’s famous six thousand pairs of shoes), those limits stretch almost infinitely when it comes to consuming intangibles in the form of entertainment or spectacle. Hence the birth of a generation whose life-stages are selling opportunities for a marketing strategy that prides itself on tracing individuals from the cradle to the grave.

 It became clear, by the last decades of the twentieth century, that childhood was fundamentally transformed. From movie theaters to malls, a new image of the child had emerged: children had grown up learning to manage on their own; adults had grown down in a never-ending search for youth, spontaneity and play promised by the market; and finally, childhood, no longer considered an inalienable property of the child, was now a commodity, a product up for sale to anyone who could pay for it.
It has now become commonplace in Hollywood, showing up in its most conservative of genres—the children’s film made for bourgeois consumption—to flaunt the collapsing boundaries between childhood and adulthood. When the toys in Toy Story (1995, 1999) come to life, they evoke neither wonder nor horror. Rather, much to our amusement, these postmodern toys speak anxiously about their brand identities. Matilda (1996) continued the trend in the Home Alone series (1990, 1992, and 1997) by showing a child who quite literally raises herself, including finding herself a guardian, while her parents are preoccupied in the vacuous pursuit of money. In Jumanji (1996), the children raise not only themselves but also the adults. In both Jumanji and Jack (1996), childhood and adulthood are permeable and reversible; children can turn into adults and then back into children again.

 Hollywood, in fact, has taken enthusiastically to postmodern irony, teaching us that childhood is merely a socially produced idea, a discursive phenomenon. Flattering us for our sophisticated understanding that media images are ideological constructions, it parodies earlier images of childhood, asking that we not take its representations “too seriously.” Meanwhile, it continues to seriously develop mechanisms to increase and predict box office receipts. In one of the conversations amongst the toys in Toy Story (1995), Mr. Potato-head mumbles that he cannot use the words he would really like to use to describe another toy because there are pre-school toys in the room.  This comment makes us laugh because it pokes fun at the old-fashioned idea that children are naturally innocent—Mr. Potato-head makes no bones about how much work it takes to maintain that innocence.  At the same time, the comment also keeps those in the audience who believe in enforcing that innocence from leaving the theater. In Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Last Action Hero (1993), Danny, a fatherless child, challenges his adult hero, Jack, to speak out loud a word he has written on a piece of paper. When Jack is unable to do so, Danny, showing off his postmodern cool, crows, “You can’t. You can’t possibly say it! Because this movie is PG-13.” While making fun of the PG-13 film, the filmmaker successfully made another PG-13 film!
Children’s marketers and advertisers have led the campaign to break the walls around childhood: by representing children as consumers they granted them a certain autonomy and recognition not available to gift-receivers in a capitalist society. To the charge that they were exploiting a group that did not yet have the experience to sift through mediated reality, they offered the self-serving reasoning that children now were far more sophisticated and worldly than any previous generation.  Take, for instance, this argument by Cy Schneider, a leading children’s marketer whose credits include Barbie and Nickelodeon:

Children are not that easy to entertain or persuade; they will not watch everything put in front of them on television, and will not buy (or ask to buy) everything that is cleverly advertised to them. In reality, children are intelligent, discriminating, and skeptical. Despite their lack of experience, they are not that easily fooled.8

While children’s marketers are forthright about the direct link between treating children as consumers and accumulating capital, this relation escapes the liberals. The liberal view, for example, best represented by the American Academy of Pediatrics, is that children’s consumer culture is not driven by capitalism but by media and we can curtail its effects by educating parents and children about media. What is needed, according to this view, is an “attitude adjustment,” a change at the level of the individual, who is asked to become a critical consumer. Several media literacy programs function on this approach. Their approach to teaching about media remains centered on media texts with no discussion of the economic system within which media operate. Consequently, “empowering the child as a critical consumer” has remained limited to teaching children how to make and read media, just as they are taught to read labels for fat or sugar content in cereals, i.e., trained to go on a diet. However, you can go on a voluntary diet only if you have the money to afford it.  Otherwise, as Elizabeth Chin has shown in her ethnography of black inner-city children, you work through a diet imposed on you by your “purchasing power,” the title of her book.9

Ultimately, the view that blames the consumer for bad habits or addiction is based on the assumption that the consumer can escape consumer culture. It involves repressing the synergy (the industry’s own word of choice) between culture and commerce: between the narratives produced for children by films, books, television, computer and video games; what they read and watch in schools; the things they eat or wear; and, quite literally, the world they live in. For example, it would be hard to find a child in the US who has not heard of Harry Potter, even if they decided not to see the film or read the book, unless like Rip Van Winkle they had been asleep since 1998 when the book was first optioned by AOL-Warner to be made into a movie. Since then, the AOL-Warner machine made sure that the Harry Potter brand was sold through its own subsidiaries, such as its television channels, WB, Cartoon Network, and CNN, and its magazines including Time, Entertainment Weekly, and People. Potter was also brought to your home and the mall nearest you through AOL-Warner’s deals with other businesses. Some of these were:  Mattel who put out the toys; Tiger Electronics who produced alarm clocks with talking portraits, a Trivia game, a board game, costumes, and puzzles; Scholastic Paperbacks who came out with Harry Potter journals, stationary kit, and even Hogwarts crests; and Electronic Arts Inc. who produced computer and video games.
The industry’s response to worries regarding the inescapability of children’s consumer culture is: you have the choice to turn off the T.V., to not go to a movie, and to educate and restrain your children, who in any case are far smarter than you think. However, when children’s imaginations transform or parody their market-produced icons or consume their products without paying for them, these corporations turn from democrats who provide entertainment into punitive surveillance autocrats who bring their lawyers to sue eleven to fourteen year olds, as AOL-Warner recently did with children’s Harry Potter websites or the music industry did with children copying music.10

While it is not surprising that liberals and marketers insist on the consumer’s freedom to choose (notwithstanding the recent displays of corporate control), they have been joined, sadly, by an offshoot of the cultural studies position in media studies. Originally represented by critics like Raymond Williams who, seeking to counter the pessimism of the Frankfurt school, had insisted upon recognizing people’s ability to be interpretive agents and not dupes manipulated by the media, a version of cultural studies has just stopped asking the fundamental question: how does the culture industry socialize us into capital? Claiming that such a question is deterministic and simplistic, they have inaugurated a celebration of consumerism as a means to assert autonomy, form identity, and even find a community. In these “complex” studies of how people consume, consumption has emerged as the primary human activity displacing politics altogether as a possible sphere of human action. Adam Katz has traced the history of this transition and argued that its theoretical moves—the emphasis on identity instead of class, discourse instead of relations of production—are ultimately a means to accommodate to late capitalism.11

Professing that children do not mindlessly absorb media, that they form identities and communities through sub-cultures and fan cultures, these critics propose to recognize children as agents but begin to sound remarkably like the children’s marketers. For instance, David Buckingham’s insistence that children are “not powerless victims of advertising” quickly slides into taking the position that the primary material opposition is between adults and children.12  This way parents (regardless of race, class, gender or sexual orientation) are turned into a policing agents while corporations emerge as champions of children’s freedom. While they claim to be progressives who are freeing children from enforced innocence, these critics echo the advocates of child labor from a century earlier who had argued that children were no different from adults and that their labor was necessary and desirable. The only difference is that now they say that children have the right to be consumers.

Nothing comes free in capitalism, not even childhood
The problem is that capital needs consumers to reproduce itself but it cannot universalize the promises of consumerism, i.e., produce what people really need, because those with the greatest needs have the least money. It would be illogical to produce housing, education, or medical care for those who could not pay for it.  Since capitalists also tend towards monopoly, i.e., controlling as much as possible of the resources in order to wipe out the competition, the gaps between those who have wealth and those who don’t grows progressively. The widening of the class divide has recently been commented upon by even a mainstream paper like the New York Times and a business paper like the Wall Street Journal. Both papers report that class mobility in the US, i.e., the possibility that a child would move upwards from his or her parents’ class, is lower than in Canada and Europe but not as low as in Brazil!13

Accompanying the promises of freedom and autonomy made by children’s consumer industry has been the withdrawal of social protections to children in an increasingly inequitable antagonistic world. While our market shelves are filled with commodities produced “for” children, the social protections granted to children are rapidly disappearing.  While the production of entertainment opportunities continues to grow, investment in schooling, health, housing, day-care, the arts, and sports continues to decline. Our children are being told that they are on their own and adults asked to accept and revel in this fact. The collapsing boundary between childhood and adulthood that has become the fun-theme of the narratives from the last decades of the twentieth century has fostered acting out or getting used to this fundamental transformation.

Since the 1980s, there has emerged a consensus at the top, among both Democrats and Republicans, that social welfare is an anachronism and that families should take care of themselves and their children without social support. Howard Zinn recounts that between 1980-84 Reagan cut social services by $140 billion while increasing military expenditure by $181 million and granting a tax cut of $190 billion (most of which went to the wealthy). As unemployment grew during these years, so did the infant death rate. Clinton’s Welfare Reform of 1996 further undercut government assistance to families: it limited public assistance to five years and also included the provision that there would be no increase in state assistance with the birth of a new child.14
This has continued under Bush Jr. whose tax cuts and cuts in education and other social services have further impoverished families and schools. The fiscal budget for the year 2003 amounting to $310 billion, reflected, according to the Military Almanac, the greatest increase in military spending in the previous twenty years, and was more than the combined military budgets of the next ten military powers.15 The increased military spending and the tax cuts, 52% of whose benefits went to the richest 1% of Americans, were subsidized by cutting welfare programs that directly impacted children or their families. The children’s health insurance program known as SCHIP and a children’s vaccine program took a cut off 18%. Working-class families took a cut in programs such as, Low Income Home Energy Assistance and Dislocated Workers Assistance. Moreover, these cuts are taking place at a time when the rate of unemployment is at the highest since July 1994 and the reduction in the number of jobs, the highest since the Second World War, making it even harder for families to take adequate care of children.16 The 2005 budget further cut spending on education, cutting 48 education programs that added up to $4.3 billion, including $2.2 billion for high school programs. State loans and grant programs for college took a cut of $12.7 billion when college costs have continued to rise.17

Once again the family, albeit an increasingly tattered and poor one, was called upon to protect children from these socially constructed problems. George W. Bush declared September 23, 2003 as Family Day. The lack of concrete support for families through measures such as good childcare, schools, health care, housing, and jobs for parents is inversely matched by a moralistic rhetoric around family values.

Rather than create conditions that would enable poor working mothers to, at the very least, hold onto jobs required by Bill Clinton’s Welfare “Reform,” Bush has tagged on, instead, a marriage promotion scheme that offers economic incentives for women to marry, thus pushing them into taking responsibility for men as well. While American capitalism has killed the family wage making it impossible for one salary to support a middle or working class family, and while the women’s movement established the value of women in public life, marriage is now being reinstated through economic incentive just when women’s economic dependence on men is no longer a factor in sustaining that institution.

The religious right, however, blames the family for not protecting its children—not from capital but from the media, which, like the liberals, it holds responsible for the growing up of children. Underlying their recurring fears that films such as Harry Potter or Disney’s Pocahontas carry subliminal satanic messages is the anxiety that new media technologies and consumer culture have enabled children to access a wider world, exercise their curiosity, and become autonomous. They quite rightly perceive that the recognition of children as consumers has granted them a certain freedom from adults. After all, consumers are taken seriously in a market society and individuals are encouraged to consider freedom as something achieved against society and not in it.

Yet, the conservatives’ anger is targeted not so much at the market as it is towards children, the changing family, and the women’s movement, which they blame for tearing apart the family. Their solution, then, is to tame children by bringing back the old-fashioned authoritarian family and school, failing which there are the state prisons. In other words, they would like capitalism without capitalism: they have no problems with free enterprise but they do not want the free market’s challenges to traditional hierarchies or its accompanying social disintegration.
With the failure of the family to act as a nurturing and policing agent, children themselves are perceived as the problem that can be retrained only through severe disciplinary measures. At the Houston GOP meeting in the summer of 1992, when Bush Sr. was the incumbent President, then-Governor John Ashcroft had expressed the fear that if children were not instilled with a moral purpose, they would “turn to selfish gratifications of drugs, promiscuity, rioting, and even mindless TV.” The flip side of the child-loving rhetoric of the conservatives is the advocacy of punitive, disciplinary measures against children.  An example is the new “zero tolerance” policy in schools, in which children as young as eleven years old, vulnerable because of certain social and physical disabilities, and outsiders because of non-conformist views, have been interrogated, arrested, and detained for what were youthful jokes.18 We have parents and children begging consideration and leniency because the children were only “kidding,” a word that seems increasingly outmoded in the bleak light cast by capitalism under which each is responsible for oneself.

It is entirely logical within capital to demand that children take on the responsibility for their own care. Arlie Hochschild, in making her broader argument that domestic life has increasingly come to reflect the exchange relations of the market, gives the example of certain new phrases that have entered into common parlance. For example, child experts now use the term “children in self care” instead of “latch-key” or “home alone” kids to describe children who are left without adult care.19 While making children independent is a laudable goal, self-care is here is understood in the atomistic way promoted by the free market: individuals exist outside of/prior to society and must look out for themselves against competitive and hostile others. Children can now expect to be treated as adults by courts, social policy, and the market.

The colorful products, the glittering entertainments, the light-hearted comedies that celebrated the growing up of children were rehearsals in the bitter lesson of the free market: that no one gets a free ride, not even children¾a lesson that has desperate consequences for the working and middle classes who have little or no capital to pass on to their children.  The class war of the last two decades of the twentieth century has been fought over the very future of our children: while the culture industry trained us to celebrate the growing-up of our children, the military-industrial complex systematically eroded the social protections for children and families.

Why capitalism needs war
What if this permanent war on terror was not just a pre-emptive strike against Saddam but a pre-emptive strike against the eruption of this class war, the breaking open of the unsustainable promises of unlimited consumerism for all?20 What we have on display is a breach in the ruling class: while capitalism needs consumers it also needs soldiers, those who will forgo the promises of a life lived in endless pursuit of self-improvement. So, while the advertisers continue to sell a lifestyle not accessible to all, the right complains that the young are losing their will to fight a war. Did not conservatives like Jerry Fawell and Pat Robertson claim after Sept. 11 that America had got what it deserved because of its degenerate, consumerist-passive lifestyle? In spite of his earlier charge to patriotic citizens to shop, even George W. Bush in his most recent State of the Union speech (January 2006) regretted the American “addiction” to oil. The truth, however, is that not everyone in the United States has the luxury of limitless consumption and nor is everyone consuming equally. Uniting the nation against an alien outsider is a last-ditch attempt at maintaining the structural inequalities of capitalism at home and abroad. Astute observers like Slavoj Zizek and Eric Hobsbawm suggest that perhaps we have not recognized the full scale of the domestic crisis within the US.21  The call to the young to turn into soldier from consumer and the zero-tolerance policies in schools are ways to control the social antagonism and disintegration resulting from the sustained class war wrought by the ruling class for the last forty years. The question is, will the young buy it?

Imperialism, Lenin pointed out all those years ago in 1917, was the last stage of capitalism—a system of sustained global inequity in which wealth is drained from the colonized to the imperialist powers through the exercise of military, economic, and political force.22 The empires of the previous century had won the consent of their working class who saw their overall standard of living improve as people started to do better than their parents. Will a generation that has experienced the opposite, a decline in opportunities as compared with their parents, be won over to a war supposedly fought for their benefit?

For our part, our job is to clarify the conditions of domestic class war that preceded this war abroad. Shannon Petrello’s recent photomontage series, Playing Dead, is exactly one such intervention—quite the opposite of commercial culture where the consumer happily and seamlessly turns into a soldier, her work protests the aestheticization of war, its transformation through new technologies and fashion styles into a children’s game. The image opens out to a child’s video game screen where toy soldiers shoot headless children’s mannequins in a Gap store-front against the ruins of the American civil war.23Our critique of consumer culture has to be tied to a critique of capitalism, and there can perhaps be no critique more fundamental than capitalism’s instrumental use of our children. In this struggle our children will be our allies: we can talk to our children about the inequities of consumerism, its false promises, and ultimately its destructive potential. Our children can join us in our protest marches against this current state of permanent war. We can imagine with Marx a different society in which the integration of children does not make them vulnerable to exploitation in the market or at home. Writing passionately against the charge that working class parents did not care about their children and so sent them to work, Marx imagined a society where children could be integrated into adult society, but not as instruments of capital:24

However terrible and disgusting the dissolution, under the capitalist system, of the old family ties may appear, nevertheless, modern industry, by assigning as it does, an important part in the process of production, outside the domestic sphere, to women, to young persons, to children of both sexes, creates a new economic foundation for a higher form of the family, and of the relations between the sexes… Moreover, it is obvious that the fact of the collective working group being composed of individuals of both sexes and all ages, must necessarily, under suitable conditions, become a source of humane development; although in its spontaneously developed brutal, capitalistic form, where the labourer exists for the process of production, and not the process of production for the labourer, that fact is a pestiferous source of corruption and slavery.


1. A version of this paper was first presented at Childhoods 2005, Oslo in May 2005. Thanks are due to Elizabeth Chin, Beryl Langer, and Dan Cook for camaraderie at the conference, the editors of Socialism and Democracy for a thorough critique, Michelle Schriber for suggestions, Shannon Petrello for her art work, Mike Covell for acquiring the images, and Suhaila Meera and Nilim Gupta for first showing me the recruitment ads.

2. This fashion show was reported in the New York Times fashion section, Feb. 10, 2006.

3. For history and analysis of this, see Viviana A. Zelizer, Pricing the Priceless Child: The Changing Social Value of Children. New York: Basic Books, 1985; Gary Cross, Kids’ Stuff: Toys and the Changing World of American Childhood. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997; Ellen Seiter, Sold Separately: Children and Parents in Consumer Culture. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1991.

4. Terry Eagleton. Walter Benjamin or towards a Revolutionary Criticism. London: Verso. 1981. p. 47

5. As the world leader of neoliberal capitalism, the US provides a clear example of the logic of capitalism which is mitigated in other advanced capitalist nations by historical factors such as stronger labor movements and social benefits (both under severe threats at the moment).

6. Marx, TheEconomic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, ed. Dirk J. Struik. New York: International Publishers, 1964.p. 148.

7. David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity. Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell Publishers. 1990.

8. Cy Schneider, Children’s Television: The Art, the Business and How It Works. Chicago: NTC Books. 1987. p. 2.

9. Elizabeth Chin, Purchasing Power: Black Kids and the American Consumer Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 2001.

10. For a more detailed discussion, see Jyotsna Kapur, “Free Market/Branded Imagination: Harry Potter and the Commercialization of Children’s Culture.” Jump Cut, No. 46, Summer 2003,

11. Adam Katz (Postmodernism and the Politics of Culture. Boulder: Westview Press. 2000) has traced the history of this transition and argued that its theoretical moves—the emphasis on identity instead of class, and on discourse instead of relations of production—are ultimately a means to accommodate to late capitalism. Chuck Kleinhans (“Cultural Appropriation and Subcultural Expression: The Dialectics of Cooptation and Resistance,”, and Clay Steinman & Mike Budd (Consuming Environments:  Television and Commercial Culture. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. 1999) have pointed to the dialectical nature of consumer choice within capitalism. They point out that consumers indeed have choices but within the parameters imposed by class and the offerings made by industry.

12. David Buckingham, After the Death of Childhood: Growing up in the Age of Electronic Media. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. 2000.

13. Derrick Z. Jackson, “A Steeper Ladder for the Have-nots.” Boston Globe. May 18, 2005

14. Howard Zinn The Twentieth Century: A People’s History. revised and updated ed. New York: Harper Perennial, 1998. pp.346-50.

15. Jodi Edelstein. “Military Spending Drastically Increases in FY 2003.” The Vanderbilt Orbis. November 20, 2002.

16. From The AFL-CIO website, “Bush Watch,” The data are from the Bureau of National Labor Statistics Report of June 6, 2003, and the Economic Policy Institute.

17. Mike Allen and Peter Baker. “$2.5 Trillion Budget plan Cuts Many Programs.” Washington Post, February 7, 2005. p. A01; Derrick Z. Jackson, “Bush’s education gap.” Boston Globe, January 25, 2006.

18. For detailed stories see, a site started in 1998 which has continued since then to provide information, advice, and networking to families confronting these harsh policies.

19. Arlie Hochschild, The Commercialization of Intimate Life: Notes from Home and Work. Berkeley: University of California Press. 2003.

20. Slavoj Zizek further suggests that perhaps the war on terror is actually a war to neutralize a total questioning of the system by mobilizing the right and the liberals in what he calls the liberal-democratic consensus that there is no alternative: blaming the media and not capitalism for the growing up of children is another such consensus-building exercise.  Accepting the role of consumer comes with a fundamental acceptance of the premise of capitalism: each of us confronts the world based on our purchasing power, a premise that has changed the very nature of childhood itself. Welcome to the Desert of the Real. London: Verso. 2002, p. 154.

21. Eric Hobsbawm, “America’s Neo-conservative World Supremacists Will Fail.” Guardian, June 25, 2005.

22. V.I. Lenin. Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, online at

23. Shannon Petrello can be contacted at Crush was part of her MFA thesis show (2005).

24. Karl Marx, Capital Vol. I, ch. 15, sec. 9; transl. S. Moore and E. Aveling. London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1959. p. 489f (emphasis mine).

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