consumerism is an economic theory that states an increasing consumption of goods is economically desirable (merriam-webster).
it is most often associated with the western world, but is true of far more economic systems around the world than just the west. consumerism began its great ascent after the industrial revolution when goods could be manufactured in great quantities, at lower prices, and delivered to the masses.
consumerism has its advantages:
- the consumer chooses his/her lifestyle – what goods are necessary and what luxuries can be afforded.
- the opportunity to enjoy this world (food, drink, entertainment) in various quantities.
- economic advantages to a large segment of the population (middle- and upper-class).
- the opportunity and motivation to improve your social standing by working hard.
but consumerism also has its disadvantages:
- in a capitalistic market aimed at selling, certain trends may emerge. it is in the interest of producers that the consumer’s needs and desires never be completely or permanently fulfilled, so the consumer can repeat the consumption process and purchase more products. this can be accomplished with made-to-break products, continuously changing the trends of the market (i.e.: fashion), employing class-envy, encouraging individuals to purchase above their means.
- in a consumeristic society, people begin to seek money/goods as the greatest good rather than influence or helping others.
- consumerist societies are more prone to damage the environment and use up resources at a higher rate than other societies.
- in consumeristic societies, the upper- and middle-class typically benefit at the expense of the lower-class or other non-consumeristic societies.
this piece is not written in support or opposition to the theory of consumerism. it is meant only to provide both sides of the argument in an effort to further understanding of our society. ideally, it will cause some to rethink their blind support of consumerism and others to rethink their blind disdain for it.
how have you seen our consumeristic society play out any of the advantages of disadvantages above?