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Encyclopedia > Consumerism

Consumerism is the equating of personal happiness with the purchasing of material possessions and consumption.
The term is often associated with criticisms of consumption starting with Karl Marx and Thorstein Veblen. Consumerist is a consumer affairs blog run by editor Ben Popken, along with associate editor Meghann Marco, and weekend editor Carey Greenberg-Berger. ... For other uses, see Happiness (disambiguation). ... In economics, consumption refers to the final use of goods and services to provide utility. ... Karl Heinrich Marx (May 5, 1818 – March 14, 1883) was a 19th century philosopher, political economist, and revolutionary. ... Thorstein Bunde Veblen (born Tosten Bunde Veblen July 30, 1857 – August 3, 1929) was a Norwegian-American sociologist and economist and a founder, along with John R. Commons, of the Institutional economics movement. ...


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.[1] Economic globalization has had an impact on the worldwide integration of different cultures. ...


In economics, consumerism refers to economic policies placing emphasis on consumption. In an abstract sense, it is the belief that the free choice of consumers should dictate the economic structure of a society (cf. Producerism, especially in the British sense of the term).[citation needed] Face-to-face trading interactions on the New York Stock Exchange trading floor. ... Grange poster depicting the independent, industrious farmer as the keystone figure in society. ...

Contents

History

Consumerism is commonly associated[who?] with the Western world, but actually is multi-cultural and non-geographical. People purchasing goods and consuming materials in excess of their basic needs is as old as the first civilizations (see Ancient Egypt, Babylon and Ancient Rome, for example). Since consumerism began, various individuals and groups have consciously sought an alternative lifestyle through simple living. Occident redirects here. ... Central New York City. ... The pyramids are the most recognizable symbols of the civilization of ancient Egypt. ... For other uses, see Babylon (disambiguation). ... Ancient Rome was a civilization that grew from a small agricultural community founded on the Italian Peninsula circa the 9th century BC to a massive empire straddling the Mediterranean Sea. ... Simple living (or voluntary simplicity) is a lifestyle individuals choose to minimize the more-is-better pursuit of wealth and consumption. ...


The older term and concept of "conspicuous consumption" originated at the turn of the 20th century in the writings of sociologist and economist, Thorstein Veblen. The term describes an apparently irrational and confounding form of economic behaviour. Veblen's scathing proposal that this unnecessary consumption is a form of status display is made in darkly humorous observations like the following: Thorstein Bunde Veblen (born Tosten Bunde Veblen July 30, 1857 – August 3, 1929) was a Norwegian-American sociologist and economist and a founder, along with John R. Commons, of the Institutional economics movement. ...

"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. The Theory of the Leisure Class is a book, first published in 1899, by the American economist Thorstein Veblen while he was a professor at the University of Chicago. ... Conspicuous consumption is a term used to describe the lavish spending on goods and services that are acquired mainly for the purpose of displaying income or wealth. ... The 1960s decade refers to the years from the beginning of 1960 to the end of 1969. ... In psychology, communication theory and sociology, media influence or media effects refers to the theories about the ways the mass media affect how their audiences think and behave. ... Culture jamming is a resistance movement to cultural hegemony and the homogenous nature of popular culture, executed by means of guerrilla communication. ... Productivism is the (purported) ideology that measurable economic productivity and growth is the purpose of human organization and perhaps the purpose of life itself. ...


While consumerism is not a new phenomenon, it has become widespread over the course of the 20th century, and particularly in recent decades. The influence of neoliberal capitalism has made the citizens of capitalist countries extraordinarily wealthy compared to those living under other economic systems. For the school of international relations, see Neoliberalism in international relations. ...


Usage

Webster's dictionary defines Consumerism as "the promotion of the consumer's interests" or alternately "the theory that an increasing consumption of goods is economically desirable". It is thus the opposite of anti-consumerism or of producerism. 1888 advertisement for Websters Dictionary Websters Dictionary is the common title given to English language dictionaries in the United States, derived from American lexicographer Noah Webster. ... Anti-consumerism refers to the socio-political movement against consumerism. ... Grange poster depicting the independent, industrious farmer as the keystone figure in society. ...

  • 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 the free choice of 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.

Anti-consumerism refers to the socio-political movement against consumerism. ... For other uses, see Happiness (disambiguation). ... In economics, consumption refers to the final use of goods and services to provide utility. ... Grange poster depicting the independent, industrious farmer as the keystone figure in society. ...

Criticism

Main article: Anti-consumerism

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 obvious status-enhancing appeal, e.g. an expensive automobile, expensive jewelry. A culture that is permeated by consumerism can be referred to as a consumer culture. Impulse buyers are quite different from shopaholics, who cannot resist spending money. Anti-consumerism refers to the socio-political movement against consumerism. ... For other uses, see Brand (disambiguation). ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... Jewelry (the American spelling; spelled jewellery in Commonwealth English) consists of ornamental devices worn by persons, typically made with gems and precious metals. ... An impulse purchase is an unplanned or otherwise spontaneous purchase. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article may require cleanup. ...


Opponents of consumerism argue many luxuries and unnecessary consumer products are social signals allowing people to identify like-minded individuals through the display of similar products. Some believe relationships with a product or brand name are substitutes for healthy human relationships lacking in societies and along with consumerism are part of the general process of social control and cultural hegemony in modern society. Critics of consumerism, are quick to point out that consumerist societies are more prone to damage the environment, contribute to climate change and use up resources at a higher rate than other societies.[1] A society is a group of people living or working together. ...


It is in the interest of product advertisers and marketers that the consumer's needs and desires never be completely or permanently fulfilled. It is smarter for the marketer to sell the consumer a flashy trinket that will wear out and break quickly. It is even better for the product to be part of a continuously changing fashion market, where items in a nearly-new and good condition must be replaced to stay current with the latest trend. In this way steady profits are assured, but consumers are not comfortable or satisfied for very long with what they have.


Modern Consumerism in the 21st century

Beginning in the 1990’s the most frequent reason given for attending college had changed to making a lot of money, outranking reasons such as becoming an authority in a field or helping others in difficulty. This statement directly correlates with the rise of materialism, specifically the technological aspect. At this time compact disc players, digital media, personal computers, and cellular phones, all began to integrate into the affluent American’s everyday lifestyle. A large change in American culture has subsequently occurred – “a shift away from values of community, spirituality, and integrity, and toward competition, materialism and disconnection.” [2]


Companies and corporations have realized that rich consumers are the most attractive targets for marketing their products. The upper class' tastes, lifestyles, and preferences, trickle down to become the standard which all consumers seek to emulate. The not so well off consumers can “purchase something new that will speak of their place in the tradition of affluence” [3]. A consumer can have the instant gratification of purchasing a high-ticket item that will help improve their social status.


Emulation is also a core component of 21st century consumerism. As a general trend, regular consumers seek to emulate those who are above them on the social hierarchy. The poor strive to imitate the rich and the rich imitate celebrities and other icons. One needs to look no further than the celebrity endorsement of products to dissuade the notion that the American population makes its own decisions and models itself as a group of individualists.


Counter arguments

There has always been strong criticism of the anti-consumerist movement. Most of this comes from libertarian thought, but also from the Humanist Movement. This article is about the political philosophy based on private property rights. ...


The libertarian attack on the anti-consumerist movement is largely based on the perception that it leads to elitism. Namely, libertarians believe that no person has the right to decide for others what goods are necessary for living and which aren't, or that luxuries are necessarily wasteful, and thus argue that anti-consumerism is a precursor to central planning or a totalitarian society. Twitchell, in his book Living It Up, sarcastically remarked that the logical outcome of the anti-consumerism movement would be a return to the sumptuary laws that existed in ancient Rome and during the Middle Ages, historical periods prior to the era of Karl Marx in the 19th century. Elitism is the belief or attitude that the people who are considered to be the elite — a selected group of persons with outstanding personal abilities, wealth, specialised training or experience, or other distinctive attributes — are the people whose views on a matter are to be taken the most seriously, or... A planned economy is an economic system in which decisions about the production, allocation and consumption of goods and services are planned ahead of time, usually in a centralized fashion, though some proposed systems favour decentralized planning. ... The concept of Totalitarianism is a typology or ideal-type used by some political scientists to encapsulate the characteristics of a number of twentieth century regimes that mobilized entire populations in support of the state or an ideology. ... Sumptuary laws (from the Latin sumtuariae leges) are laws which dictated, amongst other things, what color and type of clothing individuals were allowed to own and wear. ... Ancient Rome was a civilization that grew from a small agricultural community founded on the Italian Peninsula circa the 9th century BC to a massive empire straddling the Mediterranean Sea. ... The Middle Ages formed the middle period in a traditional schematic division of European history into three ages: the classical civilization of Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and modern times, beginning with the Renaissance. ...


See also

Anthropological theories of value attempt to expand on the traditional theories of value used by economists or ethicists. ... An upscale, well-kept California home, exterting an image of success and respectability. ... Commercialism, in its original meaning, is the practices, methods, aims, and spirit of commerce or business. ... Consumer capitalism describes a theoretical economic and cultural condition in which consumer demand is manipulated, in a deliberate and coordinated way, on a very large scale, through mass-marketing techniques, to the advantage of sellers. ... In economics, consumption refers to the final use of goods and services to provide utility. ... Materialism refers to how a person or group chooses to spend their resources, particularly money and time. ... Look up keep up with the Joneses in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Philosophy of futility is a phrase coined by Columbia University marketing professor Paul Nystrom to describe the disposition caused by the monotony of day-to-day work in the new industrial age. ... Post materialism is an economic philosophy focussing on quality of life and enviornmental sustainability over income and material possessions. ... Grange poster depicting the independent, industrious farmer as the keystone figure in society. ... The Century of the Self is an acclaimed documentary by filmmaker Adam Curtis released in 2002. ...

Further reading

Books

  • Elizabeth Chin (2001) Purchasing Power: Black Kids and American Consumer Culture University of Minnesota Press ISBN 978-0816635115
  • Nissanoff, Dan (2006). FutureShop: How the New Auction Culture Will Revolutionize the Way We Buy, Sell and Get the Things We Really Want. Penguin Press. ISBN 1-59420-077-7.  (Hardcover, 246 pages)
  • Veblen, Thorstein (1899): The Theory of the Leisure Class: an economic study of institutions, Dover Publications, Mineola, N.Y., 1994, ISBN 0-486-28062-4. (also available: Project Gutenberg e-text)
  • Jan Whitaker (2006): Service and Style: How the American Department Store Fashioned the Middle Class, St. Martin's Press, N.Y., ISBN 0-312-32635-1. (Hardcover, 352 pages)
  • Miller, Eric. Attracting the Affluent. Naperville, Illinois: Financial Sourcebooks, 1991.

Video Thorstein Bunde Veblen (born Tosten Bunde Veblen July 30, 1857 – August 3, 1929) was a Norwegian-American sociologist and economist and a founder, along with John R. Commons, of the Institutional economics movement. ... The Theory of the Leisure Class is a book, first published in 1899, by the American economist Thorstein Veblen while he was a professor at the University of Chicago. ...

Journals Adam Curtis at the San Francisco International Film Festival in 2005 Adam Curtis (born 1955) is a British television documentary producer. ... The Century of the Self is an acclaimed documentary by filmmaker Adam Curtis released in 2002. ...

  • Kalle Lasn & Bruce Grierson, Malignant Sadness, (Adbusters June/July 2000).
  • Mona Hymel, Consumerism, Advertising, and the Role of Tax Policy, 20 Virginia Tax Review 347 (2000).
  • John C. Ryan & Alan T. Durning, Stuff: The Secret Life of Everyday Things (Northwest Environmental Watch 1997).
  • Susan Strasser, A Social History of Trash, (Orion Magazine, Autumn 2000).

External links

Please wikify (format) this article or section as suggested in the Guide to layout and the Manual of Style. ...

Other

  • Consumerium Development Wiki: fair trade, political consumerism, and moral purchasing trends. These links deal with 'consumerism' in the sense of 'consumer activism'.
  • Kunkelfruit Wiki, the home for free articles about how popular products are made.
  • Baudrillard; Cultura, simulacro y régimen de mortandad en el Sistema de los objetos | Eikasia
  • Global Consumer Solidarity Movement
  • Intolerable Beauty - Portraits of American Mass Consumption (Chris Jordan Photography), artistic photos of mass consumerism
  • The Story of Stuff
  1. ^ Veblen, Thorstein (1899): The Theory of the Leisure Class: an economic study of institutions, Dover Publications, Mineola, N.Y., 1994, ISBN 0-486-28062-4. (also available: Project Gutenberg e-text)
  2. ^ Levine, Madeline. “Challenging the Culture of Affluence.” Independent School. 67.1 (2007): 28-36.
  3. ^ Miller, Eric. Attracting the Affluent. Naperville, Illinois: Financial Sourcebooks, 1991.
For the product certification system ( ), see Fairtrade certification. ... Political consumerism is a blanket concept including fair trade and moral purchasing. ... Ethical consumerism is the practice of boycotting products which a consumer believes to be associated with unnecessary exploitation or other unethical behaviour. ... Thorstein Bunde Veblen (born Tosten Bunde Veblen July 30, 1857 – August 3, 1929) was a Norwegian-American sociologist and economist and a founder, along with John R. Commons, of the Institutional economics movement. ... The Theory of the Leisure Class is a book, first published in 1899, by the American economist Thorstein Veblen while he was a professor at the University of Chicago. ...

  Results from FactBites:
 
consumerism: Definition and Much More from Answers.com (1738 words)
Consumerism, as in people purchasing goods or consuming materials in excess of their basic needs, is as old as the first civilizations (see Ancient Egypt, Babylon and Ancient Rome, for example).
While consumerism is not a new phenomenon, it has only become widespread over the 20th century and particularly in recent decades, under the influence of neoliberal capitalism and globalization.
Another critical term is religion of consumerism, which may imply that consumerism is based on an irrational belief rather than reason, or may have been coined to evoke the religious notion of idolatry and anti-materialism.
John Paul II and the Problem of Consumerism (2349 words)
He regards consumerism as a threat to the freedom of the human person to live according to the higher demands of love rather than to the lower pull of material desires.
Consumerism may well be a cultural phenomenon, but the economic order is not insulated from culture, and neither is culture unaffected by economics.
Consumerism is a major moral threat to the salvation of souls–the primary concern of religious thinkers.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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