Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Consumerism is the oxygen of capitalism.

Consumerism is the driving force of capitalism. It works like oxygen for the capitalist economic system to survive. This article explores the roles of consumerism in capitalism and its impacts on people and society. 

Consumerism is a societal and economic belief that the personal satisfaction and happiness of individuals can be increased through the purchase and consumption of goods and services. It is often associated with capitalism, as the belief in the power of consumer spending to drive economic growth is a key aspect of capitalist economies. 

Historian Jackson argues that advertising and consumer culture have played a significant role in creating a culture of consumption that prioritizes personal satisfaction and self-gratification over more traditional values such as community, tradition, and spiritual transcendence. 

He contends that the rise of advertising and consumer culture has led to a shift in the way people understand themselves and their place in the world, from a focus on salvation and moral redemption to a focus on self-realization and personal fulfilment. 

Max Weber, a German sociologist, historian, and political economist, in his book "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism" (1905) argues that the rise of capitalist society was not solely due to the desire for profit and material gain, but rather to the cultural and spiritual values of certain groups of people. 

fig: Buying goods. 

He argued that the Protestant work ethic, with its emphasis on hard work, discipline, and frugality, was a key factor in the development of capitalist societies. 

According to Weber, the desire to earn more money and accumulate wealth was not an end in itself but rather a means to an end, that is, the ability to live a comfortable and respectable life. In this view, consumerism can be seen as a product of the capitalist system and the desire to live in a certain way, rather than an inherent human desire. 

In the book "The Transnational Capitalist Class" (2001), Leslie Sklair argues that consumerism is a cultural ideology that is promoted by the transnational capitalist class (TCC) as a way to justify and legitimize the capitalist system. 

Sklair argues that consumerism serves as a "glue" that holds the global capitalist system together by providing a sense of meaning and purpose to people's lives while also encouraging them to work harder, consume more and enter the capitalist system. 

According to W. Arthur Lewis, consumerism, which is the focus on buying and consuming goods and services, is fundamentally at odds with the goal of development, which is to improve the standard of living of the population. 

He argues that resources should be directed towards productive activities rather than consumption in order to increase the capacity of the economy to produce goods and services, thus raising the standard of living of the people. 

Some critics argue that the result of this promotion of consumerism is that people are encouraged to take on debt and spend money they do not have, which can lead to financial instability and ultimately perpetuate poverty. This approach is criticized as exploitative and detrimental to the long-term economic development of Third World countries. 

Sklair argues that consumerism is not about satisfying people's basic needs, such as food, clothing, and shelter, but rather about creating "induced wants" through advertising and other marketing techniques. He argues that once people's basic needs have been met, there is an almost limitless variety of wants that can be induced by marketers and advertisers. 

These induced wants are not based on any inherent need or desire, but rather are created through the manipulation of people's emotions and desires. 

Sklair suggests that this is a way for the transnational capitalist class (TCC) to maintain its power and control over the global economy by encouraging people to consume more and more, regardless of whether they can afford it or not. 

Jean Baudrillard, French sociologist, philosopher and cultural critic, argues that in a consumer society, people use consumer goods and brands as a way to express and communicate their social status, personality, and values.

He also argues that consumer goods and brands have lost their original use value and have become signs that communicate meaning and status. In this view, consumerism is not only about satisfying basic needs but also about creating and maintaining a sense of identity and social status through consumption. 

In order for capitalism to function effectively, it requires ever-expanding markets, where businesses can continue to sell their goods and services and generate profits. This means that businesses are constantly looking for new customers and new markets to sell their products.  It encourages people to buy more and more goods and services. This is the reason why consumerism is seen as an important aspect of capitalism. However, this constant need for expansion can lead to negative externalities, such as environmental degradation, income inequality, and other social and economic issues.

The solution is to shift towards a sustainable model of consumption prioritizing the products that are environmentally friendly and socially responsible. Another solution is to focus on investing in the community rather than individual consumers. 


Delivered by FeedBurner