Do you know someone rich and famous? Is he confident, popular, and joyful all of the time—the epitome of mainstream success? Or, on the other hand, is he stressed, having second thoughts about his life choices, and unsure about the meaning of his life? I am willing to be that it is the second one. Mainstream marketing and media have effectively brainwashed our society into accepting a false, even potentially dangerous definition of success. Marketers want us to believe that having lots of money, living in a big house, and owning all of the latest cars, fashions, and technology is the key to happiness, and hence, success. This overstated, falsely advertised myth is hardly ever the case in real life.
Popular contemporary philosophers such as Slavoj Zizek and even Alain de Botton would not exist if it weren’t for the work of early critical theorists such as Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer who analysed how culture is born out of and perpetuates ideology. For example, critical theorists are less interested in the definition of happiness but rather how society has arrived at our definition of happiness and what role culture plays in constructing such a definition.
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The American Dream is a large house, a speedy car, and financial freedom. For some, it includes a boat, a RV, and a cottage by the lake. However, another definition of success doesn’t list any of these. Success does not have anything to do with material goods but is rather tied to broader concepts.