What is Consumerism

The Consumerism is the act that is related to excessive consumption, ie the purchase of exaggerated products or services.

Consumerism is characteristic of modern capitalist societies and the expansion of globalization.

It is inserted in the so-called: “Consumption Society”, where there is the massive and unbridled consumption of goods and services that aims, above all, for corporate profit and economic development.

This consumerist stance emerged from the Industrial Revolution in the eighteenth century, so that industrial processes made it possible to increase production and, consequently, the consumption of products.


Shopping Mall in Istanbul (Turkey), One of the Consumption Icons

Consumption and Consumerism

The terms “consumption” and “consumerism” are distinct. The first is associated with the act of consuming necessary for all human beings. The second is associated with pathology, as it refers to excessive and alienated consumption, ie, denotes a mental disorder.

In this way, all people in today’s world are consumers, yet consumers take this act to the extreme, deliberately buying a variety of things they generally do not need.

Alienation and Consumption

The alienated consumerism of industrialized products grew considerably after the Industrial Revolution, definitively changing the relationship between human beings and their material needs.

People, influenced by the media and the mass media, are bombarded with information aimed primarily at consumption. This way of acting, without question and devoid of critical thinking, is called “Social Alienation.”

Corporate marketing and advertising messages in the media have generated a consumerist and alienated population. That is, it makes it impossible for individuals to have their own thoughts and actions, which are directly influenced by the models and living standards reproduced by the mass media (television, newspapers, magazines, internet, etc.).

This has brought a number of problems for modern societies, for example, the development of consumption-related illnesses, the feeling of powerlessness of consumers, in short, the dissatisfaction of man that is not yet supplied by consumption.

In this way, the human being seeks happiness in “having things” instead of “being”. This leads us to think about the stereotypes developed by modern societies. It identifies various patterns and preconceptions about some image. For example, when we see a poorly dressed person, we associate it with a lack of money and goods, which may be the opposite.

Child Consumerism

One of the recurring themes associated with the consumer society is related to children.

Similarly, children are induced to consume certain products, goods and services through advertisements in the media.

They already grow up wanting the newest products and fostering the modern capitalist chain.

Compulsive Consumerism

Compulsive consumerism is a kind of uncontrolled and irrational consumerism, devoid of critical sense and social, political and environmental awareness.

In this sense, people have a compulsion to consume and buy products or services that they do not need (superfluous goods), which results in the excessive accumulation of goods and products.

Currently the accumulation of products or even trash has been evaluated by many psychologists and specialists, which led to a new denomination of modern disorder: compulsive accumulation.

Is Consumerism Disease?

Diogenes Syndrome is the pathological name given to people who have a tendency to compulsive accumulation of things, objects, garbage, etc.

These are usually unnecessary (superfluous) things that they accumulate over time and create some kind of sentimental relationship. These individuals have great difficulty detaching themselves from things.

It thus becomes a great vicious circle (between the consumer and the consumer goods) in which objects supply various momentary (emotional, social, economic, etc.) needs of beings suffering from these disorders.

Since it is a problem generated by modern society, there are already many experts on the subject. They assess the degree of disturbance in each individual, which will be accompanied by a type of psychological or psychiatric treatment (therapy).

These people usually present difficulties in social interaction, characterized by social isolation and, consequently, the development of emotional disorders.

Another pathology associated with consumption is called “oneomania”, that is, an obsessive-compulsive psychological disorder developed largely in females.

Individuals suffering from this disease become compulsive buyers as well as large indebtedness. These people are usually anxious and feel a great relief and satisfaction after the act of consumption, which however returns in a short time, generating a huge vicious circle.

Note that this disorder is addictive and can lead to Diogenes Syndrome.

Consumerism and Environment

Consumer relations in modern societies have drawn attention to the environmental problems that are generating on the planet.

Excessive consumption leads to accumulation of objects and excess waste. This is because consumerism processes increasingly encourage consumers to consume again.

“Programmed Obsolescence”, the name given to the “life” of consumer objects, has been planned by specialists to limit the use time of consumer objects, which leads people to exchange their “old” objects. for a more updated. Scheduled obsolescence has generated a large amount of waste on the planet.

On the other hand, conscious consumption is developed by individuals who can see and distinguish the problem from need and consumerism. In this way, conscious consumers buy only what they need to live.

In addition, they do not suffer from accumulative disorders and when they discard the objects they no longer need, they resort to selective collection, which causes less environmental impact.

Video Tips

To better understand consumer processes in today’s world, here are three video tips that cover the subject:

  • The Story of Stuff ( Story of Stuff , 2007): Documentary 20 minutes presented by environmentalist Annie Leonard in that it shows the product production process that will be consumed and the environmental impact that generate the world.
  • Child, the Soul of Business (2008): A 50-minute documentary directed by filmmaker Estela Renner, which presents the various facets of child consumerism through the influence of the media.
  • Buy, Take, Buy (2010): 50-minute documentary directed by Cosima Dannoritzer, which presents the scheduled obsolescence of the products we consume.

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