Consumerism in general refers to the disproportionate consumption, the overconsumption. This is as a matter of course part of the everyday life of the people in our society. If we do not sit in front of the television, we go shopping - whereby shopping also has the character of a pastime. It is not just about buying to have the buns or the steak on the plate, but buying generates covetousness.
Buying can also calm down or activate, in addition it can causes illusions and hallucinations of receiving gifts, as consumer researchers found out. They feel stimulated, for example, by the offers of the commodity market. If they buy, they do not refer generally to the usefulness of the purchased item, but only to the act of buying.
This becomes visible in the fact that the purchased items are stored afterwards carelessly in the cellar, stored unpacked on the wardrobe, given away or sold on ebay. In the compulsive buying there is no distinct use-value orientation anymore:this fact is basically consistent. For the shopaholics is the consumer as the mass production needs him, because he quickly destroys the produced goods, so that can be further produced.
Therein is the essence of mass production: the determination of the produced items is nothing else than to become waste. If these items at the time of purchase were not already waste, they become at the latest waste if they are not in use, can not be used — or the owner do not remember a few days after the purchase that he has bought them.
With such behaviors the people move as in a hamster wheel. On the one hand a certain stimulation can take place, that is, the shopaholic feels alive and esteemed as buyer, when he or her is courted by the saleswomen in the boutique.
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In another variant relaxation and calming are set by compulsive buying. Unwanted internal states such as fear, boredom and restlessness are hidden or reduced when buying. The consumer who buys for the sake of sedation, corresponds to the desired effect of taking tranquilizers. In spite of the difference between stimulation and sedation by buying both Shopaholic types have something common.
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It's not about the product and what you can do with it, but it concerns the buying itself; here too the items are stored carelessly, there arise warehouse in apartments and cellars. Changes in the capitalist mode of production in Western industrialized societies since the s can be described as the change from industrial capitalism to consumer capitalism.
The change comes at a time when inside and outside of the Socialist Movement doubts arose about the continued existence of a revolutionary subject. The underlying question was how the class by itself could become the class of its own. It was controversial whether the struggle for freedom should happen in the revolutionary sense as class warfare or social integrative in the meaning of reformism.
Both - the class struggle and reformism - were historically plausible justifiable strategies. A number of theorists contributed to a critical theory of consumption, which referred partly to capitalism, partly to the consumer society, and described the impact of socio-economic changes on work and life. Even though the conclusions appear to be comparable, the topics and theses has been developed independently from each other.
Following the The Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord the French sociologist Jean Baudrillard developed his theory about the myths and structures of the consumer society Baudrillard In buying activities the consumer obtains the social participation, which however is reduced to the world of commodities and is connected to a "liturgy of the things".
The acts of buying and consuming are part of the daily worship in the temples of consumerism where the service of others, the consumers, takes place. The ceremonies of shopping and consumption of objects and services are combined with the proclamation of salvation by consumption. The acts of purchase become detached from the real use value, confirm the exchange value of things and create a commodified totality of experience, in which the productive activities are replaced by mere purchase acts with symbolic value.
The liturgy in the consumer society revered growth, abundance and prosperity. Contrary to the idea of abundance Baudrillard describes the consumer society as a de facto economy of scarcity, because the increased needs and desires let the means of satisfying needs fall behind, so that a cycle of desire arises that can not be satisfied. Other descriptions emphasize that the consumer society has become a priority against the work society, since the paid work gets scarcer and the goods and services richer.
The Polish-born sociologist Zygmunt Bauman represents in Consuming Life, published in , the thesis — which is also found in other critiques of consumerism — that the work society has lost much of its importance and changed towards a consumer society — with a variety of problems that concern the way people live.
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The consumer capitalism has the function by using advertising to cause people to buy things they do not need. It is not about human use of the goods, but about to maintain mass production. The production does not serve the satisfaction of needs primarily, but to keep the system running smoothly, whereby human needs are used as a transmission belt for producing. A current generation of goods has to be replaced continuously by an allegedly improved product generation, which is promoted by built-in obsolescence into the products.
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Taking as an example the mobile phone that was up-to-date 15 years ago, we no longer find this today in, at least among young people. The adolescents have devices such as smart phones or i Phones of the latest generation. This is associated with the fact that the consumer expectations promote servitude and flexibility, forming a conformist adaptation which runs subliminally and is hardly perceived as submission to the imperatives of consumer society. The social integration takes place today predominantly through participation in the consumer society Zygmunt Bauman.
At the same time, new forms of poverty and alienation have emerged that remain oriented to the ideal of participation through consumption.
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Despite all the efforts in providing information there are no clear solutions. Erich Fromm refers to a cultural process of suppression that is linked to the prevailing social character and the social unconscious. In this context also relevant is the concept of ambiguity, Henri Lefebvre has used in his sociology of everyday life. It suggests that the integration is carried out through consumption in such an extent that ecological problems can not sufficiently fall into consumers' attention.
Figuratively speaking the consumers stand at a historic parting of the ways and have not yet decided for saving options. This circumstances are still in need of clarification, since the signs of the crisis are known since the s. Consumerism and consumer capitalism can be regarded as two competing concepts, which understand themselves both as critical. Consumerism is sometimes used in an apologetic sense as by Norbert Bolz, who has written the Consumerist Manifesto, which is a praise speech on the consumerism.
Bolz refers to the consumerism as the immune system of the world society. If all people experience the healing function of consumption, there would be no fundamentalism and also no terrorism anymore. Then the world is pacified. Anyway, this is the simple denominator of the restricted and false testimony. But behind it still hides a very special problem that of illusory freedom. The people are compelled to consumerist behavior.
The consumer as the object of advertising is constantly suggested, what he still needs for his happiness. In recent decades, consumption has expanded in the post-modern, neoliberal societies. Education and learning as well as health have increasingly been functionalized in terms of the economic utilization and efficiency thinking so that commodified relationships has extended as the basic model of social behavior and consolidated in consciousness.
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