Consumerism seems to us a wholly
natural way of life
But it is not “natural” – it is a relatively
recent social invention
...
“The cultural dominance, in modern
capitalist societies, of an orientation to
the marketing and consumption of
goods
and s...
Consumerism IS new
- From about 1750
- In the most advanced capitalist
countries e.g. UK, Holland
Product of the rise of t...
A “consumer society” - MASS Consumption
High Modernity
Middle classes – from about 1860s
Increasing wealth  more money to...
What did the development of MASS
consumption involve?
1) Further development of the
capitalist economy
- Development of pr...
Commercialization of social spheres
Christmas celebrations
- “Traditional” Christmas celebrations
invented c. 1860s
- Gift...
3) Developing social importance of
money
Georg Simmel (1900)
Money is not just a means of
buying things
It encourages a pa...
The appearance of the “sovereign
consumer”
A new kind of individual
With a new way of thinking
•Someone who is wholly free...
4) Development of consumer credit

- Borrowing money to buy goods NOW
- Paying back LATER
- From 1920s (esp. in USA) finan...
5) Development of consumer places:
Arcades
- From about 1870s
- Passageways with small, exclusive shops
- Covered, lighted...
The department store
- From about 1870s
Covered, lighted, heated, patrolled
Goods on display – not hidden away
Spectacular...
Late Modernity
Later 20th century
Move away from purely mass
production of goods
More sophisticated technology
-Flexible p...
Early modernity: beginnings of consumerism
High Modernity: mass consumption / consumerism
Late Modernity: flexible product...
No consumer good has an intrinsic or
‘natural’ meaning
Meanings attached by advertising agencies
e.g. champagne = a celebr...
Advertising agencies

 Attempting to fix meanings
 Attempting to guide
consumer’s thinking

Mostly sub-conscious

 Enco...
Negative views assume:

- Individuals wholly open to manipulation
- Individuals unthinking and uncritical
- Advertising st...
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 me...
Activities of trans-national corporations
(TNCs) e.g. Coca-Cola, Nike,
McDonalds, etc.

“Coca-colonization”
(Ulf Hannerz)
Consumerism and society
Consumerism and society
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  • Consumerism and society

    1. 1. 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?
    2. 2. “The cultural dominance, in modern capitalist societies, of an orientation to the marketing and consumption of goods and services” (Collins Dictionary of Sociology)
    3. 3. 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
    4. 4. 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
    5. 5. 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
    6. 6. 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
    7. 7. 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
    8. 8. 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
    9. 9. 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
    10. 10. 5) Development of consumer places: Arcades - From about 1870s - Passageways with small, exclusive shops - Covered, lighted, heated, patrolled The shopping mall – USA, 1950s onwards
    11. 11. 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
    12. 12. 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
    13. 13. Early modernity: beginnings of consumerism High Modernity: mass consumption / consumerism Late Modernity: flexible production; away from mass consumption; multiple consumption-based lifestyles
    14. 14. 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
    15. 15. Advertising agencies  Attempting to fix meanings  Attempting to guide consumer’s thinking Mostly sub-conscious  Encouraged to keep consuming
    16. 16. Negative views assume: - Individuals wholly open to manipulation - Individuals unthinking and uncritical - Advertising strategies always work
    17. 17. Critical and reflective consumers Use consumption for their own purposes Difficult to control
    18. 18. Since 1970s: The rise of global brands
    19. 19. 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
    20. 20. Activities of trans-national corporations (TNCs) e.g. Coca-Cola, Nike, McDonalds, etc. “Coca-colonization” (Ulf Hannerz)
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