Have you ever heard of “haul videos?” I hadn’t until one of my Contemporary Sociological Theory students recently turned one in as part of an assignment. As described in this New York Times article, haul videos depict people showing-off recent purchases, or hauls, and posting the resulting videos on YouTube to share with others. It was a perfect fit for our topic that week: Herbert Marcuse’s 1964 critique of consumer society in One Dimensional Man. Here’s what we did in class:
- I had the video below playing as students got to class, and then showed the beginning of it again during class.
- I used this worksheet to guide the student work and class discussion.
First, we worked through these big picture questions individually for a few minutes:
- What is the historical context in which Marcuse wrote this book?
- What is Marcuse’s main argument?
- How does his argument relate to Marx? To other Frankfurt School theorists?
After reviewing this questions as a group, we looked at this advertisement and then watched the beginning of the haul-video below (most of them had already seen the later content, which gets repetitive, as they arrived in class). After they saw the video projected onto the screen in full-screen mode, I exited full-screen and drew their attention to how many people have seen the video before (779,798!), and was pleased to hear little gasps go up around the room. : )
In small groups, I had the students use Marcuse’s ideas to analyze the video and the ad. They also found quotes in the text that related to the media pieces, and discussed to what extent Marcuse’s 1964 critique still applies today. Finally, we discussed everything as one large group.