The Rise Of Consumer Culture Essay

1710 words - 7 pages

Consumer culture has developed over the years for many different reasons such as the demise of the social class and embourgeoisement which are both key factors in capitalism and has therefore led to the argument that consumer society merely reflects the rise of capitalism which I plan to discuss within this assignment. The origins of consumer culture have been discussed by Grant McCracken (1998) who argues that there is minimal agreement in regards to the origins of consumer society. McCracken took on the viewpoint that it would not be beneficial to look at a specific point in time in which consumer culture arose but to primarily focus on patterns of changes within culture and how these pattern of changes led to the reformation of society.

McCracken identifies three crucial changes in history which elaborate the development of modern consumer culture. During the sixteenth century and at a time of Elizabethan politics Queen Elizabeth I introduced the use of objects to her highly ceremonial court. The use of objects within her court meant that without her actually directly communicating with her subjects she could use the objects to communicate her authority and power to others. The second would have been the massive increase in the involvement within the marketplace during the eighteenth century in Europe. This signified a change in consumer culture because it meant that people from different social backgrounds could all get involved in the marketplace due to the high influence of the industrial revolution.

The industrial revolution caused the marketplace to expand and therefore created a huge space for consumer choice. This also meant that members from the middle and lower class began to recognise the social significance of goods in relation to public image and status and therefore tried to purchase the “best” quality goods to gain more social significance in society. However the works of Neil Mckendrick (1982) led him to the viewpoint that consumer culture began in eighteenth century England with the commercialization of fashion which led to a mass change in people’s taste.

So according to McKendrick the sudden change in people’s taste in relation to fashion during the eighteenth century meant that terminology such as ‘style’ developed and represented the shift in demand for items of clothing that was produced on a larger scale by new technology within the textile industry and marketing to a mass audience through improvements in printing technology which allowed and supported mass advertising to all members in society.

The third was the development of the department store. According to McCracken the Department store changed the nature of purchasing activity because department stores essentially institutionalized consumption and changed the way in how consumers were influenced and to how much influence they were subjected to in relation to purchasing goods and services. From looking at the work of McCracken and McKendrick it...

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