Consumerism & its Anti
In 1955, economist Victor Lebow stated:
"Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction and our ego satisfaction in consumption. We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced and discarded at an ever increasing rate."
Consumerism is a social and economic order that encourages the acquisition of goods and services in ever-increasing amounts. With the emergence of the industrial revolution, goods were manufactured in surplus as compared to pre-industrial era and more and more people started consuming more and more goods. With the increase in the production of different goods, a lot of services emerged to ease the process of consumption and add 'convenience' to our lives. In today's globalised world where GDP and economies are held at the helm of measuring progress and prosperity, we live in a society where the economies wants us to keep consuming. With the advent of internet we are constantly and ever increasingly consuming digital content created by individuals or groups who constantly fighting for their share of attention. In his book Entreprecariat, Silvio writes that his book is the mirror of a society in which everyone is an entrepreneur and nobody is safe. We are now the products of consumption.
Some of the major issues with regard to consumerism is that:
the raw materials and energy are unethically and unsustainably sourced
products are designed to fail after a period of time
labourers work for long hours and extremely underpaid
profits disproportionately benefit few people on top of every corporation
disparity in access to goods and services has only been widening
the material life of goods is far greater than their usable life and hence remain as waste and the pollution is ever increasing
focus is on providing options for consumers and not creating what is really needed to make lives more liveable
disconnect between producer and consumer
When there are so many socio-economic issues related to consumerism, consumption at market places becomes an inevitably political activity with serious social, economic and ecological ramifications. Consumerism comes in various forms and sizes, below is a glimpse of what a typical Black Friday sale in USA looks like. The systemic socio economic inequality is to be primarily blamed for the situation and not the consumers for the frenzy that unfolds every year.
In the wake of hyper consumerism in the recent decades, a number of anti-consumerism movements have taken birth. To name a few:
Affluenza is a psychological malaise supposedly affecting wealthy people.
Culture Jamming is a protest to disrupt or subvert media culture and its mainstream cultural institutions, including corporate advertising. It attempts to "expose the methods of domination" of a mass society.
The DIY (Do It Yourself) Movement (Jugaad included)
Freeganism is an ideology of limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources, particularly through recovering wasted goods like food.
Right to Repair is movement towards demanding goods to be repair friendly. iFixit has been extensively working in this space and this is their manifesto.
Subvertising is the practice of making spoofs or parodies of corporate and political advertisements.
Degrowth emphasizes the need to reduce global consumption and production (social metabolism) and advocates a socially just and ecologically sustainable society with social and environmental well-being replacing GDP as the indicator of prosperity.