CONSUMERISM

The consumption of goods and services in excess of one’s basic needs, usually in greater and greater quantities is not a new phenomenon, and early examples of consumerism can be traced back to the fist human civilizations. In the 1950s, factories and labour, which were used to produce weapons, planes and ships during the war, became idle, and needed to be employed. The strategy thus became to bring people out of the conserver habits they had gotten into and induce them to consume. One of the architects of the consumer society  was the retail analyst Victor Lebow, who remarked in 1955 that “Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfactions, our ego satisfactions, in consumption. [..] We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced, and discarded at an ever increasing pace.” This line of thinking launched the consumer society and the growing conspicuous consumption of the United States (and Canada) that still prevails today.
Related Issues and Topics Include:
  • Consumer-based economies;
  • Capitalism and free market economies;
  • Citizen responsibilities and decision-making;
  • Corporate responsibilities and decision-making;
  • Culture of entitlement;
  • Culture of credit;
  • Culture of excess;
  • Commodification of indigenous cultures;
  • Impact of branding, marketing and advertising;
  • Mass media manipulation;
  • Corporate sponsorship, product placement;
  • Perceived/planned obsolescence;
  • Lifestyle and health issues (e.g., obesity, chemical intolerances, allergies, illnesses, sedentary living);
  • Energy and natural resource depletion;
  • Generation of waste;
  • Petro-politics;
  • Corporate and consumer greed;
  • Sweatshops

(Information from Manitoba Education, Grade 12: Global Issues)

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