--Consumerism in Contemporary Society-- Question: consumerism thoroughly shapes our every aspect of life in contemporary society. How correct is this claim?

Essay by nextheavenUniversity, Bachelor's November 2009

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ConsumerismIn this essay we are going to examine how consumerism shapes every aspect of out lives in contemporary society - from what our food preferences are, to how we dress, to what music we listen to. We will analyse the various theories on consumerism and weight up their pros and cons before finally offering a rational conclusion. Before we begin I would like to define what both consumerism and consumption are then give a brief history of their origins and development.

Consumerism is what the Collins Dictionary of Sociology coins "The cultural dominance in modern capitalist societies, of an orientation to the marketing consumption of goods and services". Consumerism is thus a modern phenomena and a product of capitalist societies. It is based around a specific set of beliefs, the first being the idea that consuming goods is natural and beneficial for individuals and society, the second being the idea that everything can be sold or bought for a monetary value.

These two attitudes are historically new and began around the 1750's in the most economically advanced countries such as Holland and Britain.

So, what is consumption then? Firstly, consumption is not new. It began with the "leisure classes" e.g. the aristocracies, who had a monopoly on wealth and whose main way of life was one of continual consumption. However, these leisure classes displayed what is known as "conspicuous consumption", that is, they displayed their consumption tastes and values to others. This is still going on in modern societies, take for instance wealthy people who will buy expensive cars to display their economic capital.

We will now go on to give a brief history of the development of consumption into modern scale consumerism. As we have seen, consumption was predominantly restricted to the wealthy elite classes, however, early consumerism began...