The Beginning

Consumerism has become a fashionable area of concern, centred on the belief that there is a compelling need to strengthen the consumer’s position in the market-place. Consumerism is essentially a societal problem, based on the efforts of the average person to come to terms with everyday companies in everyday transactions. Yet the growth in size of business organisations, together with the increasing complexity of their offerings, is such that it is becoming ever more difficult for the ordinary individual to participate in transactions with any real hope of equality and satisfaction. It is this inequality of bargaining position that has become the “centrepoint” of consumer pressures on the community to provide for intervention and regulation in a socially constructive manner. Experience everywhere suggests, however, that it is not an easy area in which to operate. The issues of consumerism are complex and difficult to resolve, concerning as they do some of the most basic human relationships: those involving exchange. 

Journal of Management Decisions, circa 1974

5 Responses to “The Beginning”

  1. January 26, 2009 at 8:52 am #

    I do like this definition of Consumer Culture from AQR though:

    A culture may be understood as a pattern of beliefs, values, meanings and customs shared by a group of people, often existing at an implicit or taken-for-granted level. Consumer culture suggests that consumption – the act of buying goods or services – is a cultural activity, one imbued with meaning and driven not just by practical or economic factors. Mapping and exploring the business implications of these cultural meanings is one of the principal functions of qualitative market research

  2. Paul Soldera
    January 26, 2009 at 9:25 am #

    I agree Lee, that’s a good definition. But I wonder how much that has changed over time? By all accounts, we are at the height of consumerism, but are we at the zenith of its cultural meaning? Before big business, mass production, product proliferation, was the ‘act of buying goods and services’ far more of a cultural activity than it is today? Does the Internet and burgeoning web commerce put us closer to or further away from this cultural meaning? It’s easier than ever before to be socially connected online, but it’s also very easy to choose to be isolated.

    I guess, is Consumer Culture as a ‘culture’ growing or declining. Or is it (has it) just changed?

  3. January 28, 2009 at 7:24 am #

    over the kiwi summer i read several books around The Great Depression, The Ascent of Money and A Splendid Exchange (plus a History of the World by E Gombrich). The classic by Galbraith was the best). My pick is the current belief that we are at the height of consumerism is a tad ahistorical. Each age grapples with its own unfolding events and i think sees them as unique and special. (Bowling Alone deconstructs some of the myths around American Life – not as unique as we might think).

    If the meaning is imbued in the consumption – does it become less cultural because it is mass produced?

  4. Paul Soldera
    January 28, 2009 at 8:57 am #

    No, I guess it doesn’t. But does proliferation of choice and access to goods devalue consumption as a cultural activity? Does it make shared beliefs, values and meanings less important than they were? Does Amazon.com de-culture consumption?

    I guess I am arguing from the standpoint that ‘culture’ is measurable and has an ideal and not so ideal form. When it really doesn’t. Although it IS tempting to make value judgments about human beings sitting behind computers consuming things versus doing it face-to-face.

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