Consumerism is a modern socioeconomic phenomenon which lies in the tendency of production and buying ever-greater amounts of different goods and services. Its positive and negative impact on society is a subject of hot discussions among journalists, sociologists and psychologists, as it influences not only the lifestyle of individuals, but also determines technological and financial progress of the whole states. Though being widely criticized, the tendency to consume more goods is a reflection of modern social needs and is an effective way to raise life standards, motivate personal development, and to improve the financial situation in many countries.
Firstly, consumerism enables people to improve the quality of their lives. As Llewellyn Harrison Rockwell (Rockwell 2006) states in his article “In Defense of Consumerism”, in 1900 the average life length of women was about 48 years, and of men – 46, but today these indexes are 80 and 77 respectively. This has happened due to the influence of many factors, among them are possibilities to get twenty-four-hour hospital- and home-based medical care, buy high-quality goods, medicines, and to use more safe devises in the working processes. Without the consumerism all this would be impossible as economically unprofitable. For instance, running-water is stuffed with various chemicals and drinking it can be harmful to health. In order to protect the organism, one has to filter water using a special device. For some people spending money on this filter can also be considered as a case of consumerism, but, in fact, it is just a way to take care about one`s organism.
Secondly, consumerism is an effective way of motivation. The temptation to buy a new device, better clothes, and tastier food incites people to earn more money. But for this they should work harder, develop their professional skills, and widen their outlook. Moreover, a new purchase itself can become a reason for a person to get some new experience. For example, if one has bought a fashionable sports outwear or equipment, it is already a motive at least for starting training.
Thirdly, the economies of almost all developed counties are based on production of new goods and services. The more people buy, the more income the state gets, and the more money can be donated to the social spheres, such as health care, education, and culture. The countries possessing more financial resources provide their citizens with better life conditions: the rate of unemployed people and those on the edge or below poverty line is much lower in the states where consumerism is widespread. Generally, it is better to live in a country where you have a chance to choose where to work and which university to enter rather than to have no choice at all.
On the other hand, there is an opinion that consumerism is a kind of a vicious circle, a way to nowhere, which will not make people`s lives better, but will only contribute to an endless competition between all of them. Juliet B. Schor (Schor 1992), for instance, thinks that the rising number of different goods and services available nowadays makes people neither happier nor wealthier. It only makes them work harder in order to earn money for just another nice thing, spending less time with their families and friends, and trying to compensate it with buying new goods. The satisfaction usually does not lasts long, only till the moment one sees someone else possessing a better or more fashionable thing. But, in fact, the issue of social happiness does not depend on services of products that can be bought, it is just a matter of a person`s character. On the contrary, most of modern devices and goods are created to make people`s lives easier, help them to save their time and provide them with more opportunities for self-actualization.
So, as any socioeconomic phenomenon of the modern world, consumerism can influence society both positively and negatively depending on many various factors. But, in general, it has more advantages, because it serves as a basis for development on individual, social, and state levels, motivating people for self-development, providing them with better life conditions, and supporting the financial strength of a state.
- Rockwell Jr., Llewellyn Harrison. “In Defense of Consumerism.” Mises Institute, 18 May, 2006, mises.org/library/defense-consumerism. Accessed 24 Apr. 2017.
- Schor, Juliet B. “Work, Spend, Work, Spend: Is This Any Way To Live?” The Washington Post, 19 Jan. 1992, www.washingtonpost.com