Consumerism thrives on the notion that individuals should have what they want in excess. This has led to a situation in which consumers acquire products in constantly increasing quantities.
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Perceived classiness appears to be the driving force of consumerism. That is, consumption of luxury products is thought to elevate a consumer’s social class. Consumerism thrives well in a capitalist society like the United States of America. It is responsible for a number of positive and negative effects. But to a large extent, consumerism is beneficial to the United States society.
It unites different social classes. Acquisition and consumption of certain products appears to unite members of different social strata in the United States. For instance, fashionable items associated with inner city dwellers may be purchased by middle class Americans living in suburban areas.
Each group has a certain value it hopes to derive from the products. The poor may associate success with certain items commonly purchased by the middle class citizens. They will purchase the same products in an attempt to experience the perceived success. On the other hand, members of a higher social class may perceive items commonly acquired by the poor as sophisticated and modern.
This consumer behavior transiently breaches the gap between the two groups. In the long run, it reduces conflict between the social classes. The desire to acquire the latest products in the market is a feeling shared by the social classes. It does not matter what class one belongs to, all that matter are needs and wants of the individual. At this point the attention of the consumer is focused not on class difference but on the product.
Another benefit that can be linked to consumerism is growth of the marketing sector. Consumer demand is driven by shrewd marketing. In an attempt to attract as many buyers as possible, manufacturers and sellers often use advertising and market segmentation. The growth of luxury goods market is an example of how market segmentation can increase sales. The ripple effect is increased consumption of luxury goods.
This has a positive effect on the economy and society. Individual members of society may derive pleasure from consumption. In addition, it improves production capacity through development of tools. It has been argued that production and consumption are part of a continuous process.
Without one, the other is nonexistent. However, production and development of tools may be more dependent on consumption. Therefore, consumerism may encourage advancement in the development of tools. This is an indication that excessive consumption does not necessarily crowd out production.
Consumption motivates one to make more money. This is a necessary ingredient for development. Needs and wants are limitless thus encouraging hard work. It is, therefore, not correct to argue that consumerism encourages laziness. A more disturbing argument is the perception that consumption only fills a void in the consumer. Consumerism is not always a substitute for higher level of enjoyment.
Various arguments against consumerism have been advanced. Consumerism has been viewed as the biggest source of environmental degradation. As the consumers increase quantities of products they purchase, more demand is exerted on the environment. The demand for meat and meat products, for example, has been increasing steadily. Consumption of meat is among the major causes of animal depletion.
Therefore, consumerism may cause depletion of all natural resources leading to scarcity. Scarcity in turn increases demand thus creating a vicious cycle of environmental degradation. This suggests that irresponsible consumption is not sustainable. Moreover, such consumers do not worry about effects of their actions on the environment. Excessive consumption represents the greatest danger to the environment.
Another criticism of consumerism is that it tends to focus on pleasure rather than enjoyment. Pleasure focuses on current gratification and does not motivate the consumers to improve their lives. Enjoyment on the other hand focuses on the task and offers an opportunity for self development.
People often choose pleasure over enjoyment because it is not demanding. Pleasure is a manifestation of inner emptiness. It represents an attempt to find something involving to do. Eventually this leads to a shift in ideas from ‘what to do’ to ‘what to have’. In this case, the focus is on the benefit associated with consumption. This may slow down innovation.
To live meaningfully and well in a materialistic society, one has to make certain crucial adjustments. Consumers should pay attention to environmental effects of their actions. In general, consumers should do everything in moderation. This will ensure that the environment is conserved. In addition, consumers should only engage in consumption practices that do not harm them. Harmful habits include excessive consumption of food containing excess saturated fat and salt. Consumerism also tends to encourage passive pleasurable activities.
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Consumers should strive to live their lives independently. Consumers should not pay a lot of attention to what others are doing. Some communal consumption habits are harmful to both the consumer and the environment.
Consumption of luxury goods for example, does not add much value to the individual’s life. It appears to only increase expenses. Luxury goods are quite expensive yet the value obtained from them is similar to that of mass-market products. As a general rule, utility should override luxury. Luxury is a social construct that consumers should not chase after.
A meaningful life is equivalent to having only what one needs. It also extends to owning only necessary quantities of the product. Excessive consumption does not appear to add any value to life. Moreover, owning more than necessary is wasteful. It encourages environmental destruction.
This paper analyzed the benefits of consumerism to the United States society. It also examined some of the negative effects of consumerism. Consumerism is a belief that consumers should acquire what they want in excess. This implies that consumption shapes the behavior of both the individual and the society. Consumerism is a uniting factor in the society. It unites members of all social classes. Some products are associated with certain characteristics of the social class that commonly uses it.
Members of a lower social class may purchase products commonly used by the upper classes because they associate them with prosperity. Consumerism has fostered the development of marketing as a sector. There has been tremendous growth in the advertising sector. Some negative effects associated with consumerism include environmental degradation and focus on consumption rather than production. Consumerism has contributed to environmental degradation through wasteful ownership.
Excessive consumption of meat alters ecosystems. This can be attributed to depletion of both animals and plants. To leave a meaningful and productive life in a materialistic world, one has to do things in moderation. Everything that one does should be friendly to the environment.