by Nooreen

Consumer crisis!


Capitalism, mass production, material culture are according to me the key features that contributed a rise in mass consumption. This new wave of change in our habits happened in the 19th Century much after the shift from ‘Fordism’ to ‘Post Fordism”. Having the right to choose what you wanted, according to your taste, was what made the consumer culture more powerful.

“..more away from mass production and consumption to flexible manufacturing and diverse patterns of consumption.” (Lash & Lurry 2002:217-18)

Consumption has become a focus on our social and cultural values. ” Shopping is no longer dutiful, it is part of her or his personal style”( Gibney & Luscombe 22) Customers are seeking for new experiences and values from goods and services. For example American Express introduced a personalised travel trip planned according to your budget. They plan your journey and deliver a travel pack filled with goodies and tips for you to experience holidays in a new way. The minute you board the plane, that is when you discover you tailor made trip. There is clearly a shift of material culture to a more pleasurable consumer driven force. According to Nicholas Abercombie (1994:51), consumption is a vehicle of pleasure where they cater for more or less everything. We do not only buy things if it is missing in the house but we look to expand our shopping as a leisure.

Douglas and Isherwood aim to prove in their research that consumers make their own meaning out of objects because post fordism era gave more information about products. Affinities attached to objects in daily life, has a strong influential and cultural meaning. A house or a flat which has just been renovated or re allocated to someone else, will of course be reorganised in a more personalised manner.

Modern systems of production, publicity and communication, such as the media and advertising, may affect individuals’ participation in this process of making judgements and being judged.(1979:62)

Mc Cracken, who is also an anthropologist, suggests that meanings are transferred to a material according to beliefs, assumptions made. For example, Valentine’s day, who defined that red roses had to be a gesture of pure or passionate love? Christmas, birthdays, have all turned into a commercial value. “Goods act as sources of social identity and carry or communicate social meaning.”1979:16. The degree of relativeness with the Western societies, carrying objects as identities is a theory derived from Sahlins (1976) where consumer would associate their individualism to specific brands or objects.  If a consumer wears Louis Vuitton, he is set on a different bench mark of social class and  Paul Willlis’s bike analysis is far most the best example of totemism. The Harley Davidson bike is not only a means of transport but working class of masculinity. Goods are marketed through advertising, using an array of signs, triggering cultural associations, desires and with globalisation, international investment is a fundamental characteristics of change.

On the other hand, however, it is important not to jump to conclusions about the great innovations on consumer culture. Bauman and Paul Gilroy are two sociologists who focused on economic inequalities where the poor people are always marginalised. The inequality between the rich and the poor increases. ” This a consumer’s age, people don’t take what they are given, they want and ask for more.” The most affected ones are children. Children are the key to the family decision making as to where to eat, which car to buy and where to shop. Children are far more exposed to consumerism culture not only through advertisement on television but also changing lifestyles, parents take the children shopping with them. According to Schor: Children memorise 300- 400 brand names and 78% say they like shopping. Danger: The parent has got the money to give to his child to buy but has no control on what he is buying or even desires to buy. It definitely sets up a proportion of parents to fail and not meeting the aspirations of their children especially in poorer areas. The children from poor families are the ones who suffer from behaviour disorder. The status syndrome, vital status,inclusion are not good to mental health in a highly materialistic society.

You always feel like you haven’t read enough or want to understand more. I wrote this note from a lecture class I attended last week but i still feel its too vague. Why to read a book which was written in the 1980’s when you want to know what is happening now!! How to actually fit what we learn in our contemporary context. The wave of consumerism is clashing with our buying power and driving us down to bankruptcy or to families without any values left.

I found a very interesting video from a Young 7 Rubicam account manager who speaks about research done to monitor the phase of consumerism.

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