The concept of consumerism is closely related to modern society, which is quite understandable given the abundance of goods and services thrown into the global market (Monod 176). The phenomenon of consumerism, however, could be observed a touch earlier. Because of the so-called consumer revolution and the following commercialization of British society, the latter began to develop distinct features of consumerism.
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In retrospect, it is really surprising that the social revolution, which led to the development of consumerist moods in British society, started with the import of Asian goods (Monod 175). The change, which the British society went through after the introduction of new and, therefore, desirable goods, is quite understandable when considered through the lens of Bernard Mandeville’s theory of the market. As Mandeville explains, the private desire for pleasure (Monod 174) was the key driving force behind the process of shaping the taste for luxury in British people.
On the one hand, the idea of consumerism being born in Great Britain might seem somewhat odd, seeing that consumerism can be related to the desire of acquiring innovative products, which is contrary to the British tradition of cherishing the things that have passed the time test. On the other hand, a closer look at the phenomenon will reveal that the concept of consumerism aligns with the idea of the British conservatism rather well. As Monod explains, having luxury and exotic products soon became related to respectability and politeness (Monod 176) in British society.
Despite the obvious development of consumerism trends in the British society of the XVIII century, it would be wrong to claim that the phenomenon of consumerism as an uncontrolled desire to acquire new goods without the necessity to do so can be applied to the British society on the specified time slot. It seems that the key reason for the British people of the XVIII century to buy new goods had a new experience; in other words, the products delivered from such exotic countries as China seemed an intriguing novelty, which was worth paying for. Such a need for new experiences contrasts sharply with the current definition of consumerism as buying the products merely for the sake of having ones. Nevertheless, the above-mentioned phenomenon admittedly gave vent to the development of consumerism as people know it nowadays. It is quite remarkable that the taste for luxury mentioned above was shaped by the introduction of exotic products and the necessity to maintain the status of a wealthy and, therefore, a powerful member of the British society.
Speaking of which, the relationship between British society and the increasing rates of what was about to grow into consumerism was quite unusual. Though the phenomenon that took place with the introduction of foreign goods and services into the British market could not be defined as consumerism as people see it today, the premises for the uncontrolled acquisition of goods and services were obviously created at the point when Britain started to import foreign products. However, it would be wrong to attribute the economic breakthrough solely to the introduction of foreign goods into the British market. Apart from the aforementioned factor, the cultural characteristics of British people played a major part in the creation of the consumerist philosophy in British society. Enhancing the traditional values, the British Empire encouraged consumerism and, therefore, contributed to the evolution of its economy.
Monod, Paul Kléber. Imperial Island: A History of Britain and Its Empire, 1660-1837. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons. 2009. Print.