From Ethical Politics
Consumerism is more than simply equating personal happiness with consumption. Is one subject to consumerism if there is appropriate use of the items purchased? One can use one's automobile, cell phone, jewelry, computers and computer games. Does that support consumerism? Not necessarily – but likely.
Consumerism is multi-fold. It is the idea that one must purchase items, whether it brings happiness or not. The question is whether a purchase is made to achieve some personal happiness quotient or "just because"—to fulfill a want, to keep up with friends, to seek a way out of emotional pain, national pain and even international debt.
Consumerism is the macro-activity of making purchases, compelled by a social structure that values growth as the pinnacle of success. People hope to grow their salaries to grow the size of their homes to grow the number of items filling those homes.
Consumerism is fed by a plethora of new and engaging products, and by a blitz of advertising. People are influenced by peers, by the famous and infamous, by consumption-saturated children, to exchange a used product for a new one. Planned obsolescence prohibits one from deeming what's owned as sufficient when the item/product/service in question purposefully becomes obsolete.
And, consumerism escalates as the stakes increase, as perceived financial status increases, not to be confused with actual financial resources. So, combined with the idea of growth is the inevitable concept of more and the concept of better, both required to justify the purchase of that which does not meet the threshold of need.
Consumerism, then, incorporates the concept of wealth. An item that is modestly priced must not be of the same quality as that which carries a higher price tag. Paying that extra amount lends itself to personal prestige, that of the perceived financial status to afford more and better.
To consume is not, in and of itself, negative. One must consume food. One consumes energy resources. One consumes retirement income. The question of ethics arises when that consumption is not founded on what J.V. Crum quantifies as sufficient abundance or what Stephanie Mills has described as epicurean simplicity — phrases that allow for consumption of needs and even enjoyment of wants — but in a manner that is meaningful and rational to the individual rather than mandated by a pressure most do not perceive at all.
- "Consumption and Consumerism" page on Global Issues
- The Century of the Self a BBC documentary by Adam Curtis, May 2002. (link to video on YouTube)
- "How Consumerism Affects Society, the Economy and the Environment", Verdant.net (non-commercial site)
- Coghlan, Andy. "Consumerism is 'eating the future'", New Scientist, August 7, 2009
- Shaw, Charles. "Are You Unhappy? Is It Because Of Consumer Addiction?" Alternet, April 11, 2008
- "The Story of Stuff", short animated film by Annie Leonard.
Author: Rosalinda Sanquiche