The ‘consumer society’ is defined as a society in which the satisfaction of needs occurs through capitalism. Through goods found on the market.
Consumerism and more in general consumer culture focuses on spending customers’ money on material goods. In order to achieve a lifestyle in a capitalist economy. It provides societies with peaceful alternatives to tribalism and class warfare. It also fuels extraordinary economic growth.
In other words, a consumer culture is a form of material culture facilitated by the market. The market has created a special relationship between the consumer and the goods or services he or she uses or consumes.
The culture of consumption
In this context, the culture of consumption describes the relationship between people and objects. Consumption reflects, and potentially reproduces, particular values and forms of status. Consequently, the culture of consumption probably lies at the heart of the relationship between structure and action in contemporary society.
It shows the power of capitalism to reproduce the parameters within which the citizens of a consumer society live their daily lives. Consumerism gives us the tools to express who we are. Simultaneously it reinforces an economic system in which the individual’s ability to be free or to choose is, ironically, limited.
Definition of consumerism
First, Consumerism can be described as an economic and social order that encourages the acquisition of goods/services in an endless cycle. Second, Consumerism promotes the purchase and consumption of goods and services in excess of each person’s basic needs.
From an economic perspective, the term consumerism refers to economic policies that encourage consumption. People are surrounded by advertisements, discounts, product launches, product giveaways and other promotions designed to stimulate constant and substantial spending on goods and services. Consumerism encourages the pursuit of the good life.
Benefits of consumerism
1. Economic growth. When people spend more, the economy grows. There is an increase in production and labour which leads to more consumption.
2. Increased innovation and creativity. As consumers are active in the search for the next best product/service to buy. Therefore, producers or manufacturers are always under pressure to innovate. When consumers have access to better goods and/or services, standards of living improve.
Disadvantages of consumerism
1. Environmental degradation. The growing demand for goods puts great pressure on natural resources such as water and raw materials. It also causes an Excessive use of energy and chemicals.
2. Moral degradation. Growing consumerism tends to distance societies from important values such as integrity. Instead, there is a strong focus on materialism and competition. People tend to buy goods and services they do not need. For what reason? To be on par or on a higher level than everyone else.
3. Higher levels of debt. The number of people taking out short-term loans to buy luxury goods has increased dramatically.
4. Mental health problems. Trying to follow the latest trends when you have limited resources can be very taxing on your mind and body. Consumerism forces people to work more, borrow more and spend less time with loved ones. Consumerism hinders fruitful relationships. It negatively affects well-being because people do not get valuable and lasting satisfaction from materialism.
Consumerism has a good and a bad side. But unfortunately, it has too many disadvantages. Although consumerism drives economic growth and stimulates innovation, it comes with a host of problems ranging from environmental and moral degradation to higher levels of debt and mental health problems. Since we are already in a consumerist society, it is advisable to find a healthy balance.