Emily Allen, N0634051
‘Shopping is not merely the acquisition of things, it is the buying of identity’ (Clammer qtd in Lewis and Bridger, 2001: 103). Discuss with reference to your own examples.
We are regularly told that we live in a time of freedom and choice, that freedom and choice are connected, and that we are ‘free to choose’ hence why shopping has become the buying of identity, and not just simply the acquisition of things. In the early to mid 20th century most shops sold products that were identical copies of each other in shape, size, colour, and material. This meant that people weren’t able to express their identity through materialistic products, instead they were made to look the same as the rest of society – from the way they dressed, to the cars they drove, to the food they ate. In today’s consumer society, few things play the influential role in our lives consumerism does; there is so much more variety therefore we are able to use commodities to express social values.
Shopping is “an activity in which a customer browses the available goods or services presented by one or more retailers with the intent to purchase a suitable selection of them.” It is not a new activity; shopping is something that has been done since 75-125 CE when the Romans were about. In order to exchange goods and services, markets and fairs were established in nearby towns and people would flock to these each week. There would only be a few stalls selling purely the essentials, such as bread, milk and material they would use to turn into clothes. Nowadays, we have huge shopping centres and department stores packed with a number of different shops suitable for all ages, genders, needs and interests, allowing people to explore and buy more than just everyday products. This has turned the act of shopping into a completely different experience, with more variety bringing more choice thus shopping becoming the buying of identity instead of merely the acquisition of things, whether you recognise this whilst shopping or not.
The way in which we shop at this moment in time has changed due to the emergence of the ‘consumer society’ – a society in which the buying and selling of goods and services is the most important social and economic activity. Rising prosperity and social mobility in the 1900s increased the number of people with disposable income for consumption resulting in people being able to buy things they want instead of just the things they need. “Our purchases reflect our innermost desires so that consumption is caught up with our psychological production of self” explains Jean Baudrillard (1970). Today, Baudrillard’s theory is truer than it ever has been. People no longer have as much disposable income as they used to 100 years ago, but that is not stopping us buying designer products and expensive cars to fulfil our desires and affirm our identity. Demand theory suggests that consumers should choose the product which provides maximum utility for the...