Sociology 2172A/B Lecture Notes - Lecture 4: Consumerism

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Lecture 4
1950: we spend money we’ve earned to buy things we need to impress people we like
2000: we spend money we haven’t earned to buy things we don’t need to impress people we don’t
Advertising is the link between production and consumption
What is consumerism?
Consumerism is the preoccupation with the acquisition of goods to satisfy needs through material
Have we developed unsustainable consumption patterns?
Pattern is out of control, for some people could be an addiction
Most people are caught up in cycle of consumerism
Sociological imagination C. Wright Mills we cannot understand society if we look at what
the individual is doing – must study group behavior and social institution (look at bigger picture)
We have private trouble but we have to look at the public issues
oGood example: obesity around the world = #1 health and social problem – we say you
have to exercise more and eat less
oThe problem is our society is structured in a ways that make it easy for us to be obese
(restaurant meals, everything is larger, walking less etc.)
oObesity is a societal problem, not individuals
With consumerism, we cannot just tell an individual to stop buying as much – it is a public issue
Our use of resources since the 1950’s is more than all the time before – our earth cannot sustain
this – 25% of people use up 80% of the worlds resources and we contribute to 80% of the worlds
garbage we live in a “throw away society” easier to just throw out and get something new then
to fix something
Average American uses 30 times the goods of someone in living in the developing world
How have we reached this point?
3500-4000 ads we see a day – not counting social media we have all these ads telling us if we buy
their product we will be… reduces the amount of social contact we have with other people
Cycle of consumerism: advertisement (could be for anything - could be product packaging, an ad,
social/cultural pressure [Christmas time]) purchase indebtedness (ex: bought sweater and blew
lunch money for next week etc.) alienation (not happy, not more popular, product didn’t give you
what it promised so then you go through the cycle again) advertisement … goes around in a circle
Role of advertising
To manipulate us into buying with little reflection
Appeal to our insecurities
Solve our problems (whatever is going on in your life, product can make it better)
Achieve happiness and freedom (interesting because happiness levels stay the same but out resource
use has skyrocketed) if you are making 30,000 a year or 150,000 a year happiness will be the
Restrain our distastes – don’t think to much about the product (if it’s a good thing to buy it or not)
oSubaru ad a car built to withstand mother-nature. And human nature
oCar advertisements do this a lot a car that reads the road. What a novel idea
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