Monday, 10 November 2014


Consumerism is a social and economic order and ideology that encourages the acquisition of goods and services in ever-greater amounts

The Industrial Revolution dramatically increased the availability of consumer goods, although it was still primarily focused on the capital goods sector and industrial infrastructure (i.e., mining, steel, oil, transportation networks, communications networks, industrial cities, financial centers, etc.). The advent of the department store represented a paradigm shift in the experience of shopping. For the first time, customers could buy an astonishing variety of goods, all in one place, and shopping became a popular leisure activity. While previously the norm had been the scarcity of resources, the Industrial era created an unprecedented economic situation. For the first time in history products were available in outstanding quantities, at outstandingly low prices, being thus available to virtually everyone in the industrialized West.

By the turn of the 20th century the average worker in Western Europe or the United States still spent approximately 80-90% of his income on food and other necessities. What was needed to propel consumerism proper, was a system of mass production and consumption, exemplified in Henry Ford, the American car manufacturer. After observing the assembly lines in the meat packing industry, Frederick Winslow Taylor brought his theory of scientific management to the organization of the assembly line in other industries; this unleashed incredible productivity and reduced the costs of all commodities produced on assembly lines.

Madeline Levine criticized what she saw as a large change in American culture – "a shift away from values of communityspirituality, and integrity, and toward competition, materialism and disconnection."
Levine, Madeline. "Challenging the Culture of Affluence". Independent School. 67.1 (2007): 28-36.

Businesses have realized that wealthy consumers are the most attractive targets of marketing. The upper class's tastes, lifestyles, and preferences trickle down to become the standard for all consumers. The not so wealthy consumers can "purchase something new that will speak of their place in the tradition of affluence". A consumer can have the instant gratification of purchasing an expensive item to improve social status.
Emulation is also a core component of 21st century consumerism. As a general trend, regular consumers seek to emulate those who are above them in the social hierarchy. The poor strive to imitate the wealthy and the wealthy imitate celebrities and other icons. The celebrity endorsement of products can be seen as evidence of the desire of modern consumers to purchase products partly or solely to emulate people of higher social status. This purchasing behavior may co-exist in the mind of a consumer with an image of oneself as being an individualist.

Capitalism is an economic system in which trade, industry, and the means of production are largely or entirely privately owned and operated for profit.

 Central characteristics of capitalism include capital accumulationcompetitive markets and wage labour. In a capitalist economy, the parties to a transaction typically determine the prices at which assets, goods, and services are exchanged.

Capitalism was carried across the world by broader processes of globalization such as imperialism and, by the end of the nineteenth century, became the dominant global economic system, in turn intensifying processes of economic and other globalization. Later, in the 20th century, capitalism overcame a challenge by centrally-planned economies and is now the encompassing system worldwide, with the mixed economy being its dominant form in the industrialized Western world.