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Consumerism and society
 

Consumerism and society

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Consumerism and society Consumerism and society Presentation Transcript

  • Consumerism seems to us a wholly natural way of life But it is not “natural” – it is a relatively recent social invention Why did it appear? What does it involve? How is it changing now and in the future?
  • “The cultural dominance, in modern capitalist societies, of an orientation to the marketing and consumption of goods and services” (Collins Dictionary of Sociology)
  • Consumerism IS new - From about 1750 - In the most advanced capitalist countries e.g. UK, Holland Product of the rise of the capitalist economy Not just “leisure classes” – middle classes, then working classes  EVERY individual is / can be a consumer
  • A “consumer society” - MASS Consumption High Modernity Middle classes – from about 1860s Increasing wealth  more money to spend on consumer goods Working classes Increasing wealth Higher aspirations -in USA from 1920s -in Western Europe from 1945
  • What did the development of MASS consumption involve? 1) Further development of the capitalist economy - Development of production lines - Mass production of consumer goods - Mass-produced goods are cheap to make  Can be sold to a broad mass of people  Still make profits for the company
  • Commercialization of social spheres Christmas celebrations - “Traditional” Christmas celebrations invented c. 1860s - Gift-giving becomes wholly bound up with consumer economy - Some “traditional” Christmas symbols are invented by advertisers   Christmas “invaded” by consumerism? Christmas invented by consumerism
  • 3) Developing social importance of money Georg Simmel (1900) Money is not just a means of buying things It encourages a particular way of seeing the world -EVERYTHING has a monetary value -EVERYTHING can be bought and sold
  • The appearance of the “sovereign consumer” A new kind of individual With a new way of thinking •Someone who is wholly free to purchase what they please •They can potentially purchase ANYTHING (as long as they have enough money) •They gain their main pleasure in life from consuming Free of all obligations or restrictions - except to keep on consuming constantly
  • 4) Development of consumer credit - Borrowing money to buy goods NOW - Paying back LATER - From 1920s (esp. in USA) financial institutions offer “cheap” loans and credit cards - Beginning of department store credit facilities
  • 5) Development of consumer places: Arcades - From about 1870s - Passageways with small, exclusive shops - Covered, lighted, heated, patrolled The shopping mall – USA, 1950s onwards
  • The department store - From about 1870s Covered, lighted, heated, patrolled Goods on display – not hidden away Spectacular window displays Elaborate décor  Encourage fantasies & aspirations Particularly aimed at women - Female is ‘naturally’ a consumer
  • Late Modernity Later 20th century Move away from purely mass production of goods More sophisticated technology -Flexible production -Rapid design and manufacturing of new goods -Specialist goods for niche markets  Multiple types of consumer  Multiple lifestyles
  • Early modernity: beginnings of consumerism High Modernity: mass consumption / consumerism Late Modernity: flexible production; away from mass consumption; multiple consumption-based lifestyles
  • No consumer good has an intrinsic or ‘natural’ meaning Meanings attached by advertising agencies e.g. champagne = a celebration e.g. cigarettes = ‘cool’ e.g. car = individual freedom
  • Advertising agencies  Attempting to fix meanings  Attempting to guide consumer’s thinking Mostly sub-conscious  Encouraged to keep consuming
  • Negative views assume: - Individuals wholly open to manipulation - Individuals unthinking and uncritical - Advertising strategies always work
  • Critical and reflective consumers Use consumption for their own purposes Difficult to control
  • Since 1970s: The rise of global brands
  • Globalization of ‘non-things’ e.g. fast food, cars, watches, credit cards etc. - Bland & relatively free of content or meaning - Easily understood everywhere  can be consumed anywhere
  • Activities of trans-national corporations (TNCs) e.g. Coca-Cola, Nike, McDonalds, etc. “Coca-colonization” (Ulf Hannerz)