Consumerism Essay

1839 words - 8 pages

Consumerism is the idea that personal happiness can be obtained through consumption, the purchase of goods and services. One of the phrases supporting consumerism is "Money can buy happiness." The term is often associated with criticisms of consumption starting with Thorstein Veblen or, more recently by a movement called Enoughism. Veblen's subject of examination, the newly emergent middle class arising at the turn of the twentieth century, comes to full fruition by the end of the twentieth century through the process of globalization.
In economics, consumerism refers to economic policies placing emphasis on consumption. In an abstract sense, it is the belief that the free ...view middle of the document...

The term describes an apparently irrational and confounding form of economic behavior. Veblen's scathing proposal that this unnecessary consumption is a form of status display is made in darkly humorous observations like the following:
"It is true of dress in even a higher degree than of most other items of consumption, that people will undergo a very considerable degree of privation in the comforts or the necessaries of life in order to afford what is considered a decent amount of wasteful consumption; so that it is by no means an uncommon occurrence, in an inclement climate, for people to go ill clad in order to appear well dressed." (The Theory of the Leisure Class, 1899).
The term "conspicuous consumption" spread to describe consumerism in the United States in the 1960s, but was soon linked to debates about media theory, culture jamming, and its corollary productivism. While consumerism is not a new phenomenon, it has become widespread over the course of the 20th century, and particularly in recent decades. |
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Webster's dictionary defines Consumerism as "The movement seeking to protect and inform consumers by requiring such practices as honest packaging and advertising, product guarantees, and improved safety standards.”or alternately "The theory that a progressively greater consumption of goods is economically beneficial." It is thus the opposite of anti-consumerism or of producerism.
* Anti-consumerism is the socio-political movement against consumerism. In this meaning, consumerism is the equating of personal happiness with the purchasing material possessions and consumption.
* In relation to producerism, it is the belief that consumers should dictate the economic structure of a society, rather than the interests of producers. It can also refer to economic policies that place an emphasis on consumption.
In many critical contexts, consumerism is used to describe the tendency of people to identify strongly with products or services they consume, especially those with commercial brand names and perceived status-symbolism appeal, e.g. a luxury automobile, designer clothing, or expensive jewelry. A culture that is permeated by consumerism can be referred to as a consumer culture or a market culture.
Opponents of consumerism argue that many luxuries and unnecessary consumer products may act as social mechanism allowing people to identify like-minded individuals through the display of similar products, again utilizing aspects of status-symbolism to judge socioeconomic status and social stratification. Some people believe relationships with a product or brand name are substitutes for healthy human relationships lacking in societies, and along with consumerism, create a cultural hegemony, and are part of a general process of social control[7] in modern society. Critics of consumerism often point out that consumerist societies are more prone to damage the environment, contribute to global warming and use up resources at a...

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