And What Does This Post Signal?

Ryan Murphy contends that buying local organic "crap" is just a form of signaling. Two things:

1) No one is trailing me as I shop, Ryan. I can buy anything I want to without anyone knowing. I could buy the cheapest, most distantly grown things in the store and tell everyone it's local organic produce, if I want, and get away with it for years. If it is "all about" signaling, then why would I actually buy local produce instead of just talking about how I do so?

2) Isn't what is good for the goose also good for the gander? Shouldn't signaling theorists (and other reductionistic social theorists) apply their theory to themselves? If organic-food shoppers are "really just" signaling how environmentally conscious they are, shouldn't we be asking what Ryan is signaling in putting forward that theory? Perhaps he's not actually doing economics, he's "really just" signaling how tough-minded and cynical he is.

UPDATE: And none of the above means that signaling does not occur! Of course it does. But it is an abstraction, and no human action is ever "just" an abstraction.


  1. Anonymous1:36 AM

    This is just stupid. Do some people do this? Sure. I don't, because I don't give two shits about what anybody thinks about me. I can care less if it's organic, but I do buy local pretty often for two main reasons: A lot of stuff is cheaper because you can actually haggle the price, and there simply is some stuff that you will never be able to find at a regular store.

    The fact that there are trendy douches in the world who "signal" is nothing new. You can spot them by their contempt for those who don't do as they do.


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