Consumerism In Contemporary Society Question: Consumerism Thoroughly Shapes Our Every Aspect Of Life In Contemporary Society. How Correct Is This Claim?

2816 words - 11 pages

ConsumerismIn this essay we are going to examine how consumerism shapes every aspect of out lives in contemporary society - from what our food preferences are, to how we dress, to what music we listen to. We will analyse the various theories on consumerism and weight up their pros and cons before finally offering a rational conclusion. Before we begin I would like to define what both consumerism and consumption are then give a brief history of their origins and development.Consumerism is what the Collins Dictionary of Sociology coins "The cultural dominance in modern capitalist societies, of an orientation to the marketing consumption of goods and services". Consumerism is thus a modern phenomena and a product of capitalist societies. It is based around a specific set of beliefs, the first being the idea that consuming goods is natural and beneficial for individuals and society, the second being the idea that everything can be sold or bought for a monetary value. These two attitudes are historically new and began around the 1750's in the most economically advanced countries such as Holland and Britain.So, what is consumption then? Firstly, consumption is not new. It began with the "leisure classes" e.g. the aristocracies, who had a monopoly on wealth and whose main way of life was one of continual consumption. However, these leisure classes displayed what is known as "conspicuous consumption", that is, they displayed their consumption tastes and values to others. This is still going on in modern societies, take for instance wealthy people who will buy expensive cars to display their economic capital.We will now go on to give a brief history of the development of consumption into modern scale consumerism. As we have seen, consumption was predominantly restricted to the wealthy elite classes, however, early consumerism began in Early Modernity with the middle classes. In the later 18th centenary we saw the rise of a consumer driven economy. Markets in things such as furniture, beauty products and clothes began to emerge on a large scale. Due to the advancing technology of the time, companies were able to produce these goods on a large scale with production lines. This resulted in goods becoming cheaper to make and easier for the middle and working classes to afford. In the 1860's High Modernity a "consumer society" began to emerge - that is a period of mass consumption. Department stores now became more common and goods were on display for people to see (before they had always been behind the counter). Due to the technological advancement of the time and the changing economy, the working classes increased in wealth and by the 1920's had developed consumer aspirations. Soon, the emergence of consumer places were seen, such as the shopping mall and arcades. Also, credit cards and loans became readily available in the USA around the 1920's, soon spreading to other areas of Western Europe.So, what are things like now? Have we now become so imbedded in...

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