Summary
Consumerism is a social and economic order in which the goals of many individuals include the acquisition of goods and services beyond those that are necessary for survival or for traditional displays of status. Consumerism has historically existed in many societies, with modern consumerism originating in western Europe before the Industrial Revolution and becoming widespread around 1900. In 1899, a book on consumerism published by Thorstein Veblen, called The Theory of the Leisure Class, examined the widespread values and economic institutions emerging along with the widespread "leisure time" at the beginning of the 20th century. In it, Veblen "views the activities and spending habits of this leisure class in terms of conspicuous and vicarious consumption and waste. Both relate to the display of status and not to functionality or usefulness." In economics, consumerism may refer to economic policies that emphasise consumption. In an abstract sense, it is the consideration that the free choice of consumers should strongly orient the choice by manufacturers of what is produced and how, and therefore orient the economic organization of a society (compare producerism, especially in the British sense of the term). Consumerism has been widely criticized by both individuals who choose other ways of participating in the economy (i.e. choosing simple living or slow living) and experts evaluating the effects of modern capitalism on the world. Experts often assert that consumerism has physical limits, such as growth imperative and overconsumption, which have larger impacts on the environment, including direct effects like overexploitation of natural resources or large amounts of waste from disposable goods, and larger effects like climate change. Similarly, some research and criticism focuses on the sociological effects of consumerism, such as reinforcement of class barriers and creation of inequalities. The term consumerism has several definitions. These definitions may not be related to each other and confusingly, they conflict with each other.
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