What is Consumerism?
Consumerism is the idea that increasing the consumption of goods and services purchased in the market is always a desirable goal and that a person’s wellbeing and happiness depend fundamentally on obtaining consumer goods and material possessions.
In the 1800s people rarely had money to spend on things other than basic needs like food, shelter, clothes, etc. But in western Europe, All that changed with the growing economy. People had more money than they needed for survival, people started spending on other things like fancy clothing, wigs, and other things that we might consider as useless purchases.
All that was possible with companies advertising clothes in magazines, drinks, and cigars in newspapers, and so on. It was the beginning of consumerism.
Countries with higher GDP tend to consume more products. Hence, companies shift to developing countries to harness potential growth.
But why do we even buy the stuff we don’t even need or initially want?
The answer is that we are not sold products, we are sold emotions and feelings that are associated with the product.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs
Buy, Buy, Buy and never be satisfied
The problem with consumerism and capitalism isn’t that we are being sold to, but companies selling us products that we don’t need with their ability to convince us that we do.
Advertisement is the main tool to sell products for companies. Ads able companies to promote their products and people to know about the existence of the product. But are they selling “the product” or are they selling the feeling and the emotions attached to it?
Ads are less focused on telling the product features and more focused on the feeling and the status attached to the product, Take some man’s perfume ads, for example, they don’t show the features of the perfume, they advertize the female attention that the product will bring to its users. Or coca-cola ads don’t advertise the rich flavor of their soft drink they advertise the joy and happiness the product brings when consumed with friends and family.
“To be content with little is difficult; to be content with much, impossible.”Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach
The Reasons we Buy stuff we don’t need
Owning an expensive product can surely increase your status among your group, Status is the primary reason why many luxury businesses are still running and growing, Owning Nike classic shoes will automatically assert dominance over some other lower-level product, Or owning a Ferrari will increase chances of being respected and being a person of importance. Ads of luxury products often advertise status more than the products, Because status is what makes sales. More increment in status more the sales.
“Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need.”Chuck Palahniuk
The pressure of owning a bigger car, a bigger house, expensive clothes, etc are the needs that can be induced by social pressure. When all our friends have expensive cars, iPhones, watches, we are subconsciously pressured to buy similar products to not be left out of the group, As we are social animals we are most inclined to buy the products that our friends have to increase our bonds with them, the products didn’t sell themselves with their features, but with the feeling and status that it gave us in the group. This is observed in children the most, they don’t shy demanding things other kids have because they know what the thing will bring with itself, new friends.
“The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.”Friedrich Nietzsche
People involved in larger communities often fell for this trap, let that community be black lives matter or LGBTQ movement. Companies always find a way to increase sales with every new event occurring in society. We are more inclined to buy products associated with our communities than otherwise. Companies roll out products symbolizing the movement in which they get praised, the praising means more marketing which means more sales, and then the cycle repeats.
“The Eyes are Never satisfied. The Flesh is Never fulfilled.”
With the ever-increasing economy and tendency of people to buy things that they don’t need the global carbon emission increases rapidly where 1% growth in GDP leads to 0.5 to 0.8% of emissions.
And even the steps towards green energy will not counter the ever-increasing demand for products that will burn more fossil fuels.
Individual carbon footprint is something that is very misleading as Just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions