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Consumerism - Weeks 3 & 4
What is consumerism?
- Consumerism is the preoccupation with the acquisition of goods to satisfy needs through
- Have we developed unsustainable consumption patterns?
- How have we reached this point?
o Right now we are exposed to 3500 ads per day, including subtle ads (Shirts, smaller
things you might not notice, etc.) Just the ads we walk past in our daily lives
o TV and films have taught us to associate happiness with material products (What can we
buy to make us happy, cars, watches, rap music videos showing material items)
o We can replace social contact with people with material items (Some people claim they
get spiritual fulfilment through buying things)
Cycle of Consumerism
- Some have said the process of consumption is a psychological syndrome
o Advertisement – Makes you feel pressured to go buy something (Ex. Christmas)
o Purchase – Purchasing an object in hopes of making them feel better
o Indebtedness – Less money, adjust budget, may need to take on a new job
o Alienation – Consumer has realized the product has not brought them the happiness it
promised. Process starts over again to make the consumer feel happy again.
The Role of Advertising
- We are becoming a culture obsessed with consumerism
- Few people remember the ads they see, so how does this system work??
- The purpose of advertising is to manipulate people to buy goods and services with little thought
- Even if an ad fails to sell someone a product, it is still selling consumerism (Saying it is something
potentially you should do even though you won’t buy it)
- Advertising works to restrain or distaste (Sells us one thing even though in reality it is giving
something completely opposite)
- Do ads like these (Car ads) cause people to dismiss environmental concerns?
o Car is “one with the nature”, doesn’t take into account different pollutions (Sound, CO2,
o Also say you can get the car for a certain price, but in reality it doesn’t take into
consideration people can afford them
- Marketing experts have shown that social standing is linked with certain products
o This technique captivates the lower classes because it makes them feel “important” and
that they are in a higher status than they actually are
o Apple marketing itself more toward students
- A lot of lower class individuals begin to spend money they don’t actually have (Phones, laptops,
- What are the consequences?
o Out of control spending
o In 2001, households have reached record high debt levels
o On average, people over the age of 18 have 3 credit cards
o Savings rates are now at record lows
The Store is Born (1870s)
- John Wanamaker and Marshall Fields
- No longer have to think ahead of what you need, you can pick out different things and have a
variety of options
- Had things like tea rooms and fantastic art
Beginning of the Consumer Culture
- Henry Ford (1919)
o “People can have the Model T colour – so long as it’s black”
- General Motors (Circa 1925)
o GM introduced yearly automobile model change
o Buying the car because it is the newest cool car
Beginning of Consumerism
- Post WWII (1945)
o Pent-up consumer energy
o Economic growth
o 1950: Diners club
Didn’t charge interest, but charged annual fees
Charged companies 7 cents per transaction
Mainly targeted towards travelling salesmen
Had a lot of trouble initially, but at the end had 20,000 people
o 1958: American Express and Americard (Visa) created
o Time saving devices
- 1960s: Hippie Movement
o A reaction against:
Fashion and materialism