Showing Off in America -or- Conspicuous Consumption in LA

Dreamer: Dan, 29, North American

American Culture of Narcissism -or- The Business of Restoring the Dream

The social problem of money has always been part of the dreams I have had, that my clients have brought to therapy and those found in the International Institute for Dream Research (IIDR) database. After a series of dreams in 1986, my notebooks for the last 25 years have had one primary aim in mind, and that is; "The Business of Restoring the Dream." Many on our planet live on the "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" (read IIDR article, "Boulevard of Broken Dreams").

The social problem of money and the philosophical differences between intrinsic and extrinsic motivations and values have been debated since time immemorial. The theological thematic is frequently discussed in the Bible, one of the most famous incidents is Christ's confrontation with the money changers and the cleansing of the Temple. From a more secular perspective Lewis H. Lapham, "Money and Class in America: Notes and Observations on the Civil Religion" provides insight into the cultural capital and psychological currency of Americans. Lapham tells us; "Given the large numbers of people in the United States who have become rich, or, more to the point who have become converted to the faith in money, narcissism traded at discount prices." The psychological conflict of these ideas is taken up in the IIDR interpretation The Material Girl.

Below we find a dream that has become the corporate benchmark of narcissistic thought and dreaming for many living in the global village. The psychological problem is clearly illustrated in the Hollywood dream factory film "The Matrix", in which the narcissistic character Cypher wants his old life in the Matrix where he can be rich and famous and "where ignorance is bliss".

Dan, 29 American

I experienced a dream last night that I can't seem to release from my thoughts. Reason being is because I am not a materialistic person and do not understand its meaning.

Last night I dreamt I was driving and enjoying a new white Mercedes SL 500 convertible. I was wearing white designer shorts and a shirt. I received a lot of attention and could not figure out why.

Why sure, like any normal person, I would love to have this car, although not my favorite, but would not consider paying such a figure. The price tag is way beyond my annual salary at this time. I started a job recently with a very prominent company here in Los Angeles by accident and am becoming aware of the status it holds. The salary is not what I would like to be making but I am able to live somewhat comfortable.

Please provide your thoughts regarding this dream. I would greatly appreciate it.

Mr Hagen's Reply: Veblen and the American Dream -or- Postmodern Lifestyles

You say, you're "not a materialistic" person", your dream is not exactly about materialism per se, it's more about what the American sociologist Thorsten Veblen called "conspicuous consumption". Your dream is talking about the American "culture of narcissism" and the lure of lifestyle possibilities money can produce, for example receiving attention which the car (Mercedes) and the clothes (fashion) can afford you. Your dream gives voice to what Veblen called the "Material Frame" of our (post-modern) industrial and "corporate" society and what are known as "Veblen goods".  John Brooks, "Showing Off in America: From Conspicuous Consumption to Parody Display" provides insight to Veblen's ideas.

Christopher Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism provides a clinical clue to understanding your dream. The book has evidently become a political platform for those on both the political American "right" and "left". Charles Dember's, "The Pursuit of Power: Attention and Individualism in Everyday Life",  also speaks to these narcissistic possibilities money has to offer. From social status perspective, the underrated American sociologist Vance Packard's "The Status Seekers" provides further insight. Does money regulate thoughts and behavior in our society? Does it hold us captive to the narcissistic temptations of materialism? Is the marketplace of our thoughts and dreams influenced and "regulated" by materialism? Is this dream not the "modern" American Dream? Was this not what Madonna and her "Material Girl" iconic act was all about?

Los Angeles, is the setting of your work, (for "a very prominent company") and your dream. The city of LA is an oneiric lure which can induce egotistical visions and dark boulevards for broken film noir like dreams. It is where the Hollywood dream factory manufactures the dramatic fantasies of reality to amuse its audiences, who become consumed by its en-trancing artistic images. In "Postmodern Geographies", the postmodern political geographer Edward W. Soja sees where "It All Comes Together in Los Angeles". We live in postmodernist reality that is the "Global Village", which is heavily defined and influenced by the "Hollywood dream factory". This factory of American dreams is discussed in the IIDR interpretation, "American Dreams, Television and the Culture Industries". From a California perspective your dream can be connected to the popular TV series "Californication" which tells about the character Hank Moody who faced with the hedonistic consumer culture of LA, Moody is haunted by inner psychological demons that affect his work, his family, and all other relationships. From an American woman's perspective, the IIDR interpretation, "Born in the USA -or- The American Culture Industry" tells of the effects on dreams created by the advertizing industry. This history of the American popular culture and the advertizing industry was given voice in Roland Marchand's "Advertizing the American Dream".

From a popular art perspective, art itself becomes a consumer product and Veblen good. In a word, mass produced consumer products become "fine art" forms. Andy Warhol's work artistically mimics the advertising of everyday commercial iconic reality. In 1936 Walter Benjamin had already identified this commercialized artistic and political movement in his essay, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" Much as in the dream from a popular music perspective The Barenaked Ladies "If I had a million dollarstell us in a sort of daydreaming fashion what they would do. Abba's "Money, Money, Money" gives a different perspective. The song that most seems to fit the best response to your dream is Shania Twain's "That Don't Impress Me Much", watch music video).

For more literature to understand more about your dream see, and Georg Simmel's "Philosophy of Money".

All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.