Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Starbucks is the soul of America

Posted By on Tue, Sep 22, 2009 at 9:45 AM

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If you were depressed before you got your morning cup of coffee, then feel free to add a shot of kahlua before you keep reading. This will be a shock, but apparently it's your coffee that is causing you to feel disconnected from the rest of the world.

Allow Temple University History Professor Bryant Simon to explain:

"As our sense of association and communalism have rolled back, buying has seeped in more and more aspects of daily life. Starbucks used that retreat in public life to sell us what we want."
This is the new Bowling Alone. In losing our connection to each other, we've searched for validation from our purchases. And in his new book, Everything But The Coffee: Learning From America About Starbucks, Simon argues it's Starbucks that offered us the chance to find a new community.

He sees it as a community centered around our banter with barristas and

our belief that we achieve social standing according to the symbol

on our to-go cup. Now, that community has been destroyed not by the economy

but by what Simon believes is a result of simple competition. Starbucks

became more ubiquitous and stood out less from the crowd of coffee and

quick-serve shops. We forgot why it mattered.

And now that Starbucks' latest branding strategy

is to eliminate the brand and go back to the neighborhood feel of

coffee shops -- it makes you wonder if they're once again at the

forefront of social change. Could a multi-national corporation inspire

the continued spread of the buy-local movement?

"The success

of Starbucks is, in essence, a plea for an older form of state action

and everyday neighborhood involvement," says Simon.

Or are we all just a nation of home brewers now?

[Image via Flickr: Hyrck]  

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