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Consumerism is an ideology that focuses on the social and economic impact of the increased procurement of material goods or services. Research on consumerism illustrates that many factors play into the plethora of consumerism in America. Learn more from a paper written by an economics expert on how the consumer and the consumption of goods influences nearly every aspect of daily life.

The concept of consumerism arose during the industrial revolution, as goods and services became commodified and mass produced. This allowed more people to access material goods they otherwise would not have had access to. It was created an economic paradigm based on consumer demand. The consumer demand increases and the so does the production.

The acquisition of material goods has become an integrated and arguably obsessive component of modern American culture and society. Advertising and marketing companies capitalize on consumerism and drive the obsession. The tactics used by advertising and marketing companies target almost every aspect of American culture and society, including the following:

  • Packaging
  • Billboards
  • Commercials
  • Internet Sites
  • Social Media

Additional proponents contribute to this cyclical process by promoting products through social media. There is a phenomenon of YouTubers and Instagrammers who showcase products weekly and/or monthly that feed into the consumeristic drive to acquire more.

Consumerism shifts the focus and creates a dynamic that blurs the line of what is needed versus what is wanted. This ideology has convinced millions that they truly need the things that are categorized only as wants.

Consumerism Sources

The following are excellent resources in learning about consumerism in society today:

Cross, Gary. An All-Consuming Century: Why Commercialism Won in America. Columbia Univ. Press. 2000.

This book takes a look at the rise of consumerism in America and how it was a necessary part of the rise to American dominance in the 20th century, but why it may not serve the same positive purpose in the 21st century. The purpose of this source is to highlight the ideological importance of consumption in America and how the move toward ethical consumerism is a reaction to that ideology.

De Graaf, John, David Wann, Thomas H. Naylor. Affluenza: The All-Consuming Academic. Berrett-Koehler. 2001.

Based on a PBS special, this follow-up book is perhaps the bible of the consumer downsizing movement. The book gives both anecdotal and statistic evidence to argue that though Americans have more stuff and make bigger incomes than ever before, they aren't as happy on average as they were several decades ago. I will be using this book to examine the reasons why people decide to actively engage in ethical consumerism. For many people, ethical consumerism means limiting your consumption and spending decisions to those things that will genuinely increase one's capacity to enjoy life. In other words, these people have decided to want what they get instead of working hard to get what they want.

Ethical Consumer Guide to Everyday Shopping. Ethical Consumer Research Association Publishing, 1993.

This is actually a series of articles published by the Ethical Consumer Research Association. These articles contain information on how a variety of large corporations engage in practices that might of interest to those attempting to engage in ethical consumerism. These articles detail environmental and other ethical lapses perpetrated by these corporations. These articles would be used for information the kinds of ethical problems that consumers interested in ethical consumption might be interested in.

Harrison, Rob. "Reflections on Reaching 100." Ethical Consumer. Retrived October 16, 2006.

This article was written in recognition of the 100th issue of Ethical Consumer magazine and provides an interesting glimpse into how European companies in particular have made significant moves to behave more ethically and responsibly as a result of the ethical consumer movement. The magazine has been at the forefront of this movement. I wil be using this article mainly as a line from which to show how ethical consumerism has made a difference as it has gained strength.

Harrison, Rob, Deirdre Shaw, Terry Newholm. The Ethical Consumer. Sage Publications. 2005.

A comprehensive overview of the theories and practices of ethical consumption. This book defines ethical consumption, offers examples of how it can be accomplished to influence both business and politics, and even attempts to understand consumption from a philosphical perspective. This book will be used primarily to define what an ethical consumer is.

Irving, Sarah, Rob Harrison, Mary Rayner. "Ethical Consumerism: Democracy Through the Wallet." Journal of Research For Consumers.

This is a journal article that gives a basic outline of what ethical consumerism is. It then goes on to underline this definition by showing how acts of ethical consumerism have actually led to changes in the way that certain companies conduct their business. The article also provides extensive capsule summaries on a variety of ways that ethical consumerism has resulted in change. This article will be used primarily to show how ethical consumerism can successfully result in changing the way that business is conducted

Lasn, Kalle. Culture Jam. HarperCollins. 1999.

Lasn is one of the leading figures of the anti-consumer movement and provides a wealth of information on how corporations have gained unprecedented levels of power. The book presents a history of social opposition to consumption, but excels in revealing the influence that corporations have on American society. Foremost among these revelations is the perhaps shocking education in how corporations have been granted the the same legal status and rights as individuals. This book will be used to examine how ethical consumerism can be a political reaction to the encroachment of corporatism in America today.

Rushkoff, Douglas. Coercion. Riverhead Books. 1999.

This book focuses the persuasive techinques that marketers use to sell everything from cola to political candidates. More than merely explaining how this is done, it also attempts to answer the question of why consumers are so willing to do whatever they are told or buy whatever they are sold. This book will be used mainly to illuminate the difference beween consumers who choose to make a conscious effort to change their spending habits compared to those who don't.

Yiannis, Gabriel and Tim Lang. The Unmanageable Consumer: Contemporary Consumption and Its Fragmentation. Sage Publications. 1995.

This presents consumerism from a historical perspective. This perspective also includes an examination of the various meanings of consumerism over time and throughout different traditions. This book takes a more scholarly approach to consumerism as it considers how consumption creates an ideologically determined identity ranging from the consumer as identity seeker to the consumer as rebel or activist. I will be focusing mostly on those chapters that show how the consumer can choose to rebel against the conformist tendencies of buying.

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