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Value of Anti-Consumerist Movements Analytical Essay

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Updated: Aug 6th, 2019


In the recent past, the process of critiquing consumerism has continued to occupy greater spaces in the mainstream business world. However, despite the constant denunciations, there remains to be no genuine or universally agreed analysis of consumerism. Processes of offering critiques have continued to elicit varied reactions as to which strategy offers the best mechanism of assessing the quality and outcome of consumer thinking.

The process of critiquing consumerism take varied forms, which have often, not been fully differentiated by most literature. This paper seeks to analyze different forms of consumerism approaches, which will form an ideology critique of the existing consumerisms. The paper will then purpose to summarize the discussion by offering some recommendations for a plausible analysis and view about the concept of consumerism.

Definition of terms


This is the conviction that the selling and buying of enormous quantities of consumer goods and services is valuable to the economy or an indication of how strong the economy is. Consumerism is the cultural dominance, in modern capitalist societies and orientation to the marketing and consumption of goods and services (Handelman, 2004; (Stearns, 1990).

It’s a specific set of values, beliefs and customs of behaviors that are based on the idea that goods consumption is beneficial and natural for an individual and society as a whole. Such that peoples personal happiness comes as a result of increase in product consumption.

In addition to this, consumerism is potentially everything that is sellable and can be bought with money (Stearns, 1990). The gross national Happiness concept, which originates from Bhutan emphasizes on the physiological health, education, well being culture, ecology, good governance and community vitality on top of consumption levels.

Another broader approach by the name Wellbeing index which constitutes both the sustainability of the environment and human well being depicts that one hundred and sixteen out of the one hundred and eighty nations studied showed poor ratings on both categories ((Stearns, 1990).


This is the acquisition and use of the goods and services by consumers, or the measure of these services and good that are bought (Callaham, 2009). Consumption of consumer goods and services in the contemporary society is the key stimulus for production in a capitalist economy.

It’s the driving force behind the inducement for individuals to go to work thus becoming the major source of social statuses depending on the type of employment. Consumption is the primary foundation that leads to aspirations and pleasures on what individuals can accomplish and success on ones efforts in his or her job area.

History of consumption/consumerism

Consumer culture first surfaced in the United States towards the end of the nineteenth century in a national level, but the emergence of the consumer society stretches back from the 1600. The puritans who founded the Quakers and the Massachusetts who colonized the Pennsylvania was evidently, not for the materialism of the nations of origin.

However by the mid seventeenth century the increase of the new border lines plus the abundance of sundry opportunities for entrepreneurs brought about an important strength to the Puritan and the Quaker simplicity practice (Frank, 2002).

In the 1770’s, the American colonies were exploited so as to keep the England aristocracy luxurious lives alive. In the late 1980’s, departmental stores with a touch of luxury were born, and were created by smart retailers such as John Wanamaker in Philadelphia and Marshall Field in Chicago. These stores are the origin of today’s modern shopping mall which gave women a place to run from the normal home routine.

Mass production and advertising led to a major shift in relation to goods consumption when they emerged in the 1900s. The credit card in the “buy now pay later” plan got hold in the market and consumers got used to the culture since then. In the 1970s, the oil crisis produced by the Arab impediment led to the awakening of the consumers relative to the flimsy finiteness of the world resources. From this time, there has been continuous environmental awareness growth (Frank, 2002).

Periods of 1990’s and beyond have been a good window for fresh research on consumerism with the last decade being the most difficult task. The world watch institute has provided very enlightening and significant findings projecting the consumerism trends now and in the future. Since then it has continuously risen in a sturdy process along the years especially throughout the World War I and the twentieth century.

There were technological progresses during the first quarter of the twentieth century that assisted towards the augmentation of the production processes. This lead to overproduction and very few consumers could afford the products at such a rapid speed of production.

Political approach

Recent trades in political history expose the convoluted correlation between consumerism, democratic ideology, state politics and citizenship definitions. Recent grass roots campaigns against capitalist giants like Wal-Mart and Starbucks brings some light to the politics of consumerism when examining the methods these corporations use.

Consumers react to news of child labor in sweatshops and ecological destruction by staging boycotts and appealing to the congressional representatives to pass laws to end the corporate abuses. Corporate lobbyists additionally appeal to the government with promises of the renewed economic growth in the depressed local economies in exchange for the environmental policies or generous tax relief.

This tragic relationship between business, citizen and government demands that consumerism be examined as a powerful political force. Several very recent texts demonstrate the politicization of consumerism. The concept advocated by Micheletti (2003) about Political Virtue and Shopping explain how consumerism influences governance, laws, and regulatory tools as well as examines direct and indirect consumer political involvement.

Micheletti (2003) credits globalization and technological advances such as the internet for the anomaly created by consumer politics. Micheletti’s text not only deals with the theoretical constructs of political consumerism, but additionally explains how “actions by individuals and groups in common everyday circumstances like shopping daily for one’s family or oneself can matter significantly” This approach illuminates the correlation between globalization and consumer politics (Michele, 2003).

Examples of boycotts and selective shopping concerning such tangible icons as Nike, McDonalds, and Target appeal to the student of today due to their relativity.

Overall, the recent political studies of consumerism argue that the shift to mass consumerism redefined gender roles, reshaped class politics, benefited the civil rights movement, altered residential landscapes, and ultimately determined political policy from the local level to the global realm (Carducci, 2006).

Taking the political approach provides instructors a means of teaching institutional history from a private point of view: that of the everyday shopper.

Countercultural Views

The cultural view of consumerism is allied to the concept of conformity. It asserts that the business culture wears the image of a monolithic, homogeneous, and hierarchical order. The view attempts to dominate the society and market segments by way of advertisement (Carducci, 2006). According to this concept, consumerism creates a sense of conformity, and it is the centerpiece of the consumerism ideologies of the moment (Frank, 2002).

The prevailing argument against this notion is that it obscures the ordinary fact that consumerism is a rebellious act that justifies the obsolescence of the vicious economic cycles. According to modern consumerism, the most potent figure is a ‘hip consumer’ who expresses his individuality via making individual and informed choices. Therefore, culture jammers remain glorifying and supportive to the moving wheels of commerce since the 1960’s.

Economic Approaches

Certainly not as popular as the cultural, social or political approaches, the economic approach to consumerism still exists. A general overview of the mechanics of consumptive patterns is Angus Deaton’s Understanding Consumption (Heath, 2001).

Another recent economic text that is less dry (and less quantitative and empirical) is Richard Robbins’ Global problems and the Culture of Capitalism (Frank, 2002). Robbins’ work links the culture of capitalism to the worldwide ailments of poverty, disease, and social hierarchy. Empirical data can be useful in the instructional setting, but usually, not as attention getting as the other approaches.

Modern social movements

Social movements are campaigns calling out for change. Change in the mannerism of the way the society acts thinks and sometimes its change of underlining values. In today’s modern society, there has been rapid change in technology and more evolve consumer behavior.

These social movements focus on informing and protecting the consumers by necessitating honest advertising and packaging, improved standards and product guarantees (Kozinets and Handelman, 2004). They emphases on the setting polices that regulate the services, products, standards and methods of interests of buyers, advertisers, sellers and manufactures.

Some movements include the YES Men and the Adbusters (Kozinets and Handelman, 2004). The YES Men movement is basically culture jamming activists group which deals with political and social issues of anti-consumerism, globalization, corporate crime and the environment.

Since their initial sprang by the creation of a phony website, spoofing the world trade organization the Yes man movement has continuous performed large scale hoaxes. They describe this as a journalist collaborative effort to assist the media in narrating stories, which they consider significant.

They often use a strategic way of deploying a satirical approach in which they pretense as a mighty entity and make shocking and ridiculous comments that create a false impression of the original person or organization (Sanlin and Callaham, 2009). They make use of the media to broadcast their personal interpretation of the situation portrayed.

Despite the fact that all their pranks are harmless critics, all way points out that there the danger of people overreacting for the few hours that the information is believed. They could also pose a potential risk to fool the government and major corporations using their skills commit a major crime (Carducci, 2006).

Adbusters Media foundation is another social movement anti- consumerist. They use culture jamming to isolate reality of consumer comforts. It is a type of movement that attempts to defy corporations that define the mainstay of widespread media. This foundation hopes that its followers will reconstruct themselves though non consumption strategies.

Consumer boycotts are politically and socially motivated movements for refusal to patronize particular industries and businesses. Their main significance is an effort to effect change or rather to punish a company due to an injustice perceived (Callaham, 2009). Critics of Boycotts have noted after major announcement of the operation significant decrease in stock prices has been realized in the target firms.

The Anti consumerist stand is that commodities only supply short term fulfillments but not gratification of a happy society. The libertarian criticisms are mainly based on superiority perception. They believe that human beings have the right to make decisions for others what goods are necessary or luxurious and which are not (Sanlin and Callaham, 2009).


Consumerism was conceived as an explanation for the society’s choices made about consumption, which often do not represent fair and valuable judgment. In its quest to explain the nature of individuals and the society, consumerism asserts that individuals are always irrational, they are vulnerable to being brainwashed, and are kept in a state of imprisonment by actions of businesses. The later argument has attempted to generate critiques driven by normative elements, which has stimulated political critique in a liberal setting.

The discussion shows that behaviors of consumerists are majorly driven by comparative preferences. On the other hand, rebel consumerism sense reveals that because individuals have standard values against which to judge products, they are duped by corporate advertisements. In this respect, they are unable to support processes of consumerism.

Although consumerism has viewed rebel consumerism as being incapable of supporting the discourses of consumerism, it has received enormous support as the only potent process that can grant individuals a sense of choice while remaining independent of comparative preferences.


Carducci, V., 2006. Culture jamming: A sociological perspective, Journal of consumer culture, 6(1), 116-136.

Kozinets, R.V., and Handelman, J.M., 2004. Adversaries of Consumption: consumer movements, Activism, and Ideology, Journal of consumer research, 31(4), 691-704.

Sanlin, J., and Callaham, J., 2009. Deviance, Dissonance, and Detourenement. Culture jammers’ use of emotion in consumer resistance, Journal of consumer culture, 9(1), 79-115.

Frank, T., 2002. New Consensus for Old: Cultural Studies from Left to Right, Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press.

Heath, J., 2001.The Structure of Hip consumerism, Philosophy and Social criticism, 27(6), 1–17.

Micheletti, M., 2003. Political Virtue and Shopping: Individuals, Consumerism, and Collective Action, New York: Palgrave MacMillan,

Stearns, P.N., 1990. Social History Update: Encountering Postmodernism,” Journal of Social History, 24(2) p. 450.

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