Michael Sandel, in Democracy's Discontent, says that the Progressives, faced with the problem of creating common identity in an America that had become too massive for civic participation, proposed to focus on Americans as consumers.
While I am grateful for federal laws ensuring clean food, I don't think making a national identity out of our common consumption is enough. In Theory Camp this morning we talked about how common it is for young people to wear brand names on the outside of their clothes as a way of making a common identity. But consumption, even very common consumption, is too thin to make a national identity. Brand loyalty just does not replace democratic participation.