Today I read Alexander Tzonis and Liane Lefaivre's 1976 article "In the Name of the People" about the Populist movement in architecture. They argue that this movement, seemingly a reaction against the scientific rational modernist approach to delivering shelter as prototypical design products was in reality merely a refinement of that process making use of the success of establishing populations as markets. This is an ongoing process which seems, in the recent news about clashes over global trade liberalization, to be reaching a critical point in its establishment as a universal paradigm for living. In this reductive scenario all aspects of life are made consumer choices and issues of justice are reduced to making the global market of consumer goods more evenly accessible. Their take was that this masks the underlying dependencies based on the means of production which in fact structure all social relationships. That argument, either because they're off-base or because they're exactly right, doesn't really hit me. What does interest me is that in Ultima Online, that bizarre hybrid of role-playing social experiment and work of historical fiction, users faced with a society that rewards experience and violence more than it does economic practices, and an economy structured to give no real benefit to hoarding, someone amassed over twelve thousand shirts. When and how did the instinct for competition translate so effectively into monetary terms?

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