I remember a lot of students wrote down Coca Cola as the thing that represents America the best. This can be fully explained by reading Mark Weiner’s text since it explains the whole process of Coca Cola becoming the national representation of America. During World War II, Coca Cola became a crucial part of life for the servicemen and armed forces due to the assistance of the State in distributing and spreading the beverage Coca Cola. This process was reinforced through creating the patriotic image of Coca Cola and thus strongly evoked the homesickness and memory of personal experiences in their hometown. The manufacturers make their consumer goods appealing by linking them to the aspects of culture and civic consciousness, which made it possible for the society to see those goods as a symbol of national identity. The visual image that showed the strong fulfillment of the thirst by drinking a cup of Coca Cola was connected to the victory and freedom that will be achieved through participating in war and encouraging those who were in the field of battle. All these connections among the Coca Cola, the frustration and hope that Americans had to witness during the war and the civic response contributed to the birth of Coca cola as the new representative of American national identity. This mere consumer item achieved social and political meaning in the context of World War II, and this symbol has spread all across the world. Coca Cola as itself didn’t have any social implication or connotation but when this product was combined with American’s personal experiences and memories during World War II, it created the Coca Cola as a sign. This sign was constructed, structured and pictorialized in the discourse of World War II and this whole process eventually made a change in interpreting Coca Cola in a specific political context.
Mark Weiner further expands the concept of Coca Cola as a national identity to the critical aspects of mass consumption and consumer society. Coca Cola and America now have strong tie so that we can’t perceive Coca Cola without thinking about America. But what does this say about the political life in America? The author is saying that “Consumers form real communities around what they purchase, communities that hold affective and even political meanings for their members”. That is, consumers share their political beliefs through the experience of mass consumption thus gaining a membership in a certain community. Rather than respecting individual’s own ethnic identity and valuing diversity, Coca Cola has bounded all the people in America as mere consumers of Coca Cola. We drink Coca Cola as a member of an American consumer group, not as our own individual identity. This bad aspect of consumer society hinders citizens from achieving more democratic progression. Further, it also play role as a standard to judge whether certain people should be included or excluded in America society. As we saw the example of an African American civil rights movement in the reading, being denied getting Coca Cola has equal meaning to being kicked out of America culture and society. Coca Cola has become an essential part of an American way of life but now it become to have excessive and overwhelming meaning in the consumer society. Coca Cola is not anymore a mere beverage, but a citizenship to be accepted in American society.
What do you think about his idea that economic power has anti-democratic aspect? Can’t Consumer society based on mass consumption go hand in hand with democratic political life? Also, why do you think these day people form communities by what they purchase? When you reflect this on your own life, how much meaning does consumption have in your life?