The Rise and Disguise of Consumerism

Posted on March 12, 2011 in Business and Economy


By Himanshu Chauhan:

The markets of today are growing at a blessed rate and everyday it grows larger than what it was yesterday. Everyday numerous products are launched that are not only way advanced than their predecessors but also are far ahead of the customer expectations as well. We are consuming these products at an ever increasing rate and the markets never give us a moment where they do not have something new to offer on the line. A big segment of the human population is not just consuming to fulfill their basic needs but is enjoying a state where they are spending hugely to fulfill their ever-increasing and never-ending wants as well.

As the major economies of the world have globalised, there has been a drastic and furious increase in the number of commodities as well as their varieties available. We are consuming more and more every day and this ever-increasing state of consumption is what we know as consumerism.

Consumerism is a theory according to which increasing consumption of goods is beneficial for the economy. Consumerist policies emphasize on motivating the consumer and creating a desire in him to consume more and more and that free choice of the consumer should be the deciding factor in the market.

Consumerism has introduced numerous changes into the lifestyle of the people as well as on the course of operation that the markets previously had. Focus on the layout of the commodities has shifted from the production end to the consumption end. The production units have adapted in accordance to this market trend and planned out their products and related actions for giving the consumer maximum amount of possible satisfaction and pleasure. The standards of living of the society as well as of the in individual have been affected as now they are in easy reach to more than a thousand products to meet up with a similar kind of demand and have a lot to choose from. The production enterprises also do a lot of research before creating any commodity that not only allows them to develop a product that complies with the specific requirement of the consumer but also helps them to follow effective advertisement that not only makes an appeal to the consumer but also helps him identify what he really needs.

This phenomenon of free choice has raised the bar of competition to a higher level than any other previously known market period and this slit-throat situation has resulted in the emergence of the development of technologically-advanced, innovated and user-friendly products and services. It has also given rise to an entrepreneurial zeal in the system and every day we have a lot of individuals breaking the barricades and setting their mark with creatively developed commodities creating employment and more.

As the generations of entrepreneurs have started discovering and tapping previously hidden, unnoticed and newly born gaps in the market and nurtured them into profitable ventures, there has been a demand of a workforce that does not only hold mere report card qualification but has also got the necessary skill for the related employment. Companies now seek individuals who just not only do their general functions but also are audacious enough to move beyond the conventional and give out-of-the-box solutions and ideas to maintain a competitive edge.

Consumerism has also revolutionized the economies all over the world. As the markets have grown the economies too have become larger and larger. Due to so much being produced and sold, huge employment slots and revenue streams have been created. Countries have opened previously shut barricades to pursue international trade relations, giving way to international commodities and as well as for international enterprises to enter their territory. This has led to the development of competitive feelings amongst the nations thus helping them develop and evolve at a greater rate.

The above statements throw light on some of the ‘good’ things that have been done to the global markets but it too has its fair share of criticism attached as well. A number of social thinkers have notified some serious adversaries attached to this concept.

Most critical motion against consumerism is that it leads to the rampage of natural resources at an uneven rate as it gives rise to the tendency to produce more and more. The steep rise in the global population has always been an issue and as consumerism leads to campaigns, research and advertisement that emphasis on increasing consumption the fear of scarcity of resources that is already there for future generations increases. The pollution and environmental damage in relation to it is also a well scrutinized fact. Also the possibility that stronger nations in a bid to acquire greater amount of resources will try and control the weaker ones is there and could lead to international tension and even wars.

Another perplexity of consumerism is that it gives rise to ‘materialism.’ Materialism is a state when a person tries to achieve psychological and emotional satisfaction out of material i.e. a product he purchase or a service that he enjoys. This mental fit can be addictive and is not bound to infect only individuals but also the society at large. People, in order to fulfill their status or ego gratifying wants, try to purchase commodities without considering their actual utility, need or the results of the consumption. An example of such a scenario can be seen by the increased number of private automobiles that present in the metropolitans that raise havoc in the traffic system. This ‘not- so-thought-after’ trend of purchasing though acts as an ego booster but is most of the time short-lived and leaves the purchaser in a chronic state of dissatisfaction that results in fueling an urge to keep up the good work of purchasing more and more and more.

Society many a times develops a frame of mind where the try to classify the qualities of a person on the basis of the physical material possessions one has. This kind of thinking is a truth of today’s world and gives rise to a hypocritical mindset that leads to the ignorance of the real traits and talents of the individual. As materialism intensifies, it starts interfering with the moral values of the society. The aim to have a happy family, healthy relationships and lifestyle and living a principled and meaningful life take a backseat and an unstable quest to acquire material possessions starts.

Most products purchased are not designed with the thought of durability. Instead they are developed on the criteria of ‘made-to-break.’ This a very cunning strategy taken up by the production houses so that when newer versions of the same commodities are launched it would be easier to sell them to the consumer who would by the time become irritated with the previous version due to a lot many reasons related to service etc., this way they tend to strategically motivate the consumer to go for the better. The research done for products also helps the producers to build up deceptive and complex promotion and advertisement that sell the product by incepting a feeling of inferiority or try to relate it to the social stature of an individual. An example of these practices can be noticed in the cellular industry today. Not only are the products not durable but the advertisement also tries to convince the public that possessing a particular brand and range will boost their overall reputation among peers and colleagues and not having them will create a low scoring profile. Its result is further purchase.

Trying to detail all the aspects related to consumerism will make the size of this article soar to that of a modern day novel. The direct and indirect effects are various and their knowledge is important but not compulsory. What is compulsory is that we humans, being the most intellectual specie on this planet, behave in a responsible manner, that we identify and notify the boons and banes to our actions and decide so that the outcome leaves a sustainable and positive impact on the people, environment and everything around us. Beyond a point everything becomes an ailment and so will consumerism. Here the significant thing is that we become conscious of our action. That we get out of our comfort zones and act wisely.

The weapon that we have in the contest against consumerism from preventing it to create adversaries for us and for our future generations is provided by consumerism only. The weapon is the weapon of choice and like any other weapon it can be use for peace and development as well as for war and destruction.