Consumerism is a phenomenon in which the society leans toward the consumption or acquisition of goods and services. Some definition of consumerism leans toward consumer protection and consumer activism. However, some scholars define this phenomenon as a way of life in which individuals become engrossed at consumption and thereby, spending excessively beyond what they actually need (Miles, 5-6). Note that there is no actual consensus with regard to the definition of consumerism and reading through works of literature would yield that there are no defined elements as to what constitute consumerism. Nonetheless, in referencing the definition provided herein, it would be logical to say that the elements of consumerism are first, the excessive production and thereby promotion of goods and services that go beyond basic necessities; and second, the excessive consumption of such products that all in all, result in the emergence of problems affecting society both at the micro and macro levels.
Excessive production and promotion of unnecessary products is one of the elements of consumerism. There have been products that have been marketed in a particular society that might easily be regarded as unnecessary. Take note of fast food restaurants and food products as an example. The book Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by investigative journalist Eric Schlosser illustrates excessiveness in production at various levels. For instance, he discussed the proliferation of fast food restaurants such as McDonalds in the United States that capitalize on the supposed need for a quick-serving meal (13-30). In reality, these business establishments did not capitalize on an existing need. Rather, they invented a need. Tracing from the success of McDonalds and subsequent fast food restaurants, it would be safe to say that these businesses are now in overabundance not only in the U.S. and developed countries but as well as in developing countries. Other important facts about the overproduction associated with the popularity of fast food restaurant are the heavy promotions of fast food products in children through advertisements (31-58) and the industrialization of farming and livestock raising to fulfill the requirements of these business establishments (111-168).
Going beyond the examples of Schlosser while threading the same logic of his discussion, it is easily noticeable how excessive production and promotion have taken many forms. Take note of the case of smartphones and products such as the iPhone and iPad as examples. Every year, US-based technology company Apple introduces new reiteration of the iPhone. Competitors such as Samsung from South Korea and Chinese manufacturers are following the same lead by introducing their respective smartphones. While smartphones and similar mobile communication devices have become important today due to the various use of digital communication and consumer electronics, there has been an ongoing trend to produce and thereby, to introduce and promote newer smartphones every year. This is where excessive and unnecessary consumption comes into play.
Excessive consumption of unnecessary products is very evident today. The growth and popularities of companies such as Apple and Samsung are a testament to this. In fact, Apple has managed to create legions of loyal fans that would readily buy their new products (Gallo, 1-3). People too engrossed with smartphones would easily ditch their still-functioning old device to get a new one. Another example of overconsumption is in fast food restaurants. People have been excessively consuming a fast food product that some, if not all, of them has become overweight or obese (Libal, 1-5). These examples nonetheless illustrate how excessive consumption illustrates behaviors that are hardly logical.
The negative impacts of consumerism are varying. In the fast food example above alone, the impact on individuals would include poor health. On a macro perspective, the obesity pandemic is the example of the impact to the society of too much fast food consumption (Schlosser, 31-58; Libal, 1-5). The smartphone example illustrates materialism. The negative impact is obviously excessive consumption of financial resources. Affluent people would not have a problem with this, but those who are struggling financially or those who do not have enough resources but are still able to prioritize their smartphone consumption would definitely have a problem. Note that consumerism has increased the number of people who are in debt in the U.S. (Bentley, 329). It is also worth highlighting the fact that consumerism affects the greater society due to its impact on the environment (Jeong & Chang, 191). Excessive production means excessive use of natural resources such as fuels and raw materials while excessive consumption means the creation of excess and unwarranted waste products.
From the discussion above, it appears that excessive production and promotion of goods and services result in the invention of needs or demands that are not only unnecessary but also potentially hazardous. Excessive consumption of such goods and services make the hazards more real. These two elements of consumerism— excessive production and promotion and excessive consumption—nonetheless create a culture of excess in which the people and the society easily fall prey to capitalism tactics while also become too predisposed at consuming things that they do not really need. While consumerism does fuel the modern economy and thereby, has some positive offshoots, the risks and dangers should not outweigh the benefits.
Bentley, J. “American Consumerism.” In J. Mauk & J. Metz, The Composition of Everyday Life. MA: Cengage Learning. 4th ed. 2015. Print
Gallo, C. The Apple Experience: Secrets to Building Insanely Great Customer Experience. NJ: McGraw-Hill Company. 2012. eBook
Jeong, D. Y. & Chang, S. O. “A Sociological Approach to the Destruction of the Ecosystem.” In Ed. S. Dasgupta, Understanding the Global Environment. Delhi: Pearson. Print
Libal, A. Fast Food & The Obesity Epidemic. PA: Mason Crest. 2015
Miles, S. Consumerism: As a Way of Life. London: Sage Publications. 2006. Print
Schlosser, E. Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal. New York: First Mariner Books. 2012. eBook