With any topic we must first define it in order to further and fully analyze it. Consumerism, as will be examined here, is no exception. Consumerism is defined as “a social and economic order that encourages the acquisition of goods and services in ever-increasing amounts.” Why does this phenomenon occur? We first must tackle this question. To look at this, we will first look into the fundamentality of our current global mode of production: capitalism. Within capitalism, we must look at for what purpose are goods created. In capitalism, generalized commodity production occurs. Thus, goods are not produced for use, but rather exchange. With goods being produced for exchange, comes capital accumulation and thus the profit motive. Therefore, capitalists are incentivized to accumulate as much capital as possible by lowering the average wages of their workers and increasing the price placed upon the commodity for exchange, thus extracting more surplus value and accumulating more capital. However, capitalists are incentivized to not merely just stop there, but to also manipulate society’s demand for their given commodities in order to exchange more and thus accumulate more capital. Advertising has therefore sprouted out of capitalism. Thus, Guy Debord in Society of the Spectacle: “The first stage of the economy’s domination of social life brought about an evident degradation of being into having — human fulfillment was no longer equated with what one was, but with what one possessed. The present stage, in which social life has become completely dominated by the accumulated productions of the economy, is bringing about a general shift from having to appearing — all ‘having’ must now derive its immediate prestige and its ultimate purpose from appearances.” Advertising transformed not just the greater economy at large, but also the social framework within communities by attaching one’s worth not to one’s own self, character, and emotions but rather what one materially has and how one seems on the outside. We now have answered the question of why the phenomenon of consumerism occurs. Now, however, we must look at the ramifications of consumerism on society. Why does consumerism matter? Now, we are to tackle this question. To look at this, we will examine how consumerism impacts human relationships and interaction. Ivan Chtcheglov writes in Formulary for a New Urbanism: “Presented with the alternative of love or a garbage disposal unit, young people of all countries have chosen the garbage disposal unit.” From this we can see what consumerism has done to us as a common humanity: taken our deepest and most intimate connections and has sterilized them into solely interactions based on an unending materialistic desire. Now, we have answered the question of what are the ramifications of consumerism on society and why it matters. Now, however, we must look to what to do about the ramifications of consumerism. What can we do to remedy the harmful effects of it on society? Now, we are to tackle this question. In order to do this, we must find the root cause of consumerism and deal with it accordingly in order to eliminate consumerism from human society. With our analysis of advertising and consumerism demonstrating these phenomena occur out of capitalism, and our analysis showing how malignant to the human spirit consumerism is, we must resolve that capitalism is the cause of this plague upon human society. In order to cure humanity and fundamentally shift the paradigm of the predominant social fabric back to its more genuine origins, capitalism must be wrested from humanity at large.
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