At the present time the consumer culture is very important to the profit margins of many, “U.S.” corporations, like Wal-Mart. This is why you will often see news reports of consumer spending after, “black Friday” (the day after Thanksgiving). I don’t think that consumerism is essential to any economy. Consumerism encourages industry that basically produces a variety of junk through unfair labour laws. This is bad for democracy as well as human rights. I would argue that the American economy should be based on purchases that contribute to economic stability, such as solar panels. This would cause a contraction of the economy but the economy needs to contract. It is producing too much junk with unfair overseas labour. This bloated inneficient system can’t go on forever and a small scale/local economy is the best path into the future. There are some indications that the economic downturn is already limiting excessive consumer spending.
I agree with bialowieza. Consumer culture, as it exists, is not essential for our economy. Modern consumer culture thrives on a consistently growing economy. The only way to continue to grow our economy is by cutting production costs and optimizing sales and pricing. The economy can certainly maintain function with a shift in consumer culture. For example, if the general trend of business downsized to favor smaller local business over multi-national ones, we would see a much different economic system. Jobs would remain in communities, as would profits created by business. Product quality would probably increase, and our throwaway economy would be replaced by a longer lasting more sustainable economy that does not thrive massive profit gains but a more stable and functional local community. For an economy to function there must be some form of “consumer culture” but it certainly doesn’t need to be as it is now.
Adding to what everyone else said, I think that a consumer culture is healthy for an economy to a certain extent. In America, being a consumer can have its problems, such as debt. Living above your means can cause many problems for yourself and the economy, so its important to be a responsible consumer. In this current economy, we are learning from our mistakes and trying to pick up the pieces.
It is important not to conflate consumer culture with consumerism. Consumerism is the preoccupation of a society with the acquisition of consumer goods regardless of what said accumulation will have on one’s social status or prestige. Consumer culture, however, is defined as “a culture in which the attainment of ownership and possession of goods and services is presented as the primary aim of individual endeavor and the key source of social status and prestige.”
Consumerism can probably be discouraged in the attempt to foster local and sustainable business, but I think that consumer culture generally goes hand in hand with the selfish individualism encouraged by a capitalist market economy.
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