In the following lines, we will analyze what is behind consumerism, a problem of the first world and capitalist society in general. We also differentiate between the three types of consumption that exist and their consequences.
Consumerism is closely linked to the development of the capitalist system in the mid-20th century . The expansion of the North American modus vivendi after World War II caused the western population, and later the eastern one, to adapt to a new way of life based on production and consumption.
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1. What is consumerism?
2. Types of consumerism.
3. Consequences of consumerism.
What is consumerism
In a nutshell, consumerism is the purchase and accumulation of consumer goods and services . That is, earn money at work to spend it without measure.
Some experts, such as Jeremy Rifkin, say that the seed of this evil germinated during the 1920s in the United States, when there was an increase in productivity and a decline in the economy. That is when new persuasion techniques (marketing and advertising) emerged to generate and control the consumption of the population.
Over the years, and withthe increase in purchasing power of the social mass , consumerism has increased to unsuspected limits: the status of a person is defined by the consumer goods they own. Therefore, there is a certain social pressure that encourages individuals to continue buying and accumulating goods.
Beyond this pressure for consumption, there is a related concept called planned obsolescence. The point is that many products have intentionally stopped having a long useful life , so that users buy an improved version (or not) of it.
The objective, therefore, is not to create quality products, but to increase the economic capacity of large companies.who make these products. Production costs often fall and prices rise, thus increasing profits. The first product affected by planned obsolescence was the incandescent light bulb, with a useful life of around 1,500 hours.
Other more modern examples are found in mobile telephony. High-end mobiles become obsolete after a few years and consumers feel the urgent need to buy the latest model, either to appear social status or to feel integrated into a consumer society.
Neophilia: the obsessive search for the new
These have been some of the causes that have led our society to live under the subjugation of consumerism. So much so that some have coined a new term for the insatiable search for novelty: neophilia.
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In general terms, neophilia is the affinity or obsession with novelty , although this concept goes beyond consumer goods. It is also about the search for new experiences or emotions, something that has become almost sick thanks to new communication technologies or social networks.
Types of consumerism
Returning to the general definition, we find three types of consumption, according to the needs of the consumer or the frequency of spending.
1. Experimental consumption
This first type is based on the consumption of the product for novelty or curiosity . It requires more complex advertising techniques and seeks to make the consumer feel good about being “one of the first” to buy a good or service.
2. Occasional consumption
When an individual seeks to satisfy their non-intermittent needs . Even at this level, there is a certain tendency to spend more than necessary. Therefore, it is important to develop a responsible purchasing behavior.
3. Regular consumption
When consumption becomes part of the usual tasks of an individual. To a certain extent, we are all habitual consumers and seek to satisfy small pleasures on a daily basis. The danger lies when we compulsively seek that need for satisfaction to hide other deficiencies, even generating addictions.
Consequences of consumerism
As we will see below, consumerism has consequences at different levels, and some of them can seriously harm the human species as a whole.
1. Global consequences
At a global level, we cannot forget that excessive consumption is in direct conflict with the responsible management of our planet’s resources. As an example, we constantly supply ourselves with non-renewable energy without thinking about the consequences that this may have.
On the other hand, we generate a large amount of non-degradable waste and this has a cost for the ecosystem. Think about the amount of plastic and packaging that we find in a supermarket, even if it is not strictly necessary.
2. Social consequences
At a social level, consumerism unbalances the balance of wealth distribution . The big businessmen get rich with the capitalist system, while the consumers are always kept at a lower level by spending.
3. Personal consequences
We have previously pointed out that an individual can develop a pathological behavior of consumption, which is technically known as “oniomania”. That seriously affects his economy and the people around him.
Of course, there is a critical position to all this. Many say that a political and social response to the waste of resources is necessaryof today’s society, an anti-communism that reverses the process by transmitting ecological values to consumers. In this sense, some propose “ecodesign” or the inclusion of environmental aspects in production chains.
Some practices that help stop the consumerist wheel are buying second-hand objects or considering the consequences of buying a product (or parts of it) before its acquisition.
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