We explain what the consumer society is and its main characteristics. In addition, some examples, causes and consequences.
What is the consumer society?
“Consumer society” is a concept that began to be used after the end of World War II (1939-945) to refer to the consumption-oriented way of life of Western societies .
The societies throughout history have always consumed in one way or another. When talking about the consumer society, reference is made to how to acquire goods that have been mass produced (that is, in large quantities and at low cost). Thus, for companies , their focus is no longer on manufacturing, but on how to sell the products they have manufactured.
This forces firms to appeal to a number of tools (such as marketing and advertising ) to place those goods on the market. Thus, it begins to encourage the acquisition of necessary goods and others that are not.
Within these societies, it is impossible not to speak of “consumerism.” That is: excessive and unnecessary consumption of goods and services .
Characteristics of the consumer society
In consumer societies there is a huge variety of goods and services that are not only produced to a greater extent than what is demanded (due to the low costs of mass production) but, at the same time, they are goods that do not They are always necessary for people’s lives.
In this way, companies manage, through marketing and advertising , to create needs artificially, which then, through their products, offer to meet.
These societies are characterized by a huge amount of goods – and more and more services , especially with the emergence of the Internet – and a large number of brands that produce them. Thus, they must be managed to highlight what their differentials are, although these are practically null. This is where, once again, advertising and marketing are decisive.
Programmed obsolescence is a determining concept in consumer societies. What does it consist of? In the manufacture of products that, deliberately, have a useful life : in advance they are manufactured with a certain durability so that their owner is forced to discard it and buy a new one.
Obviously, the companies that manufacture their products under this slogan manage them so that the consumer considers that the relationship between price and quality is convenient, in order to choose that brand again and not turn to that of the competition .
Programmed obsolescence is a way to keep the consumer society standing . It is that, without it, it is likely that the manufacturers of a certain product (such as a cell phone) have many sales as soon as they launch it. But, as time passes , those sales will fall until they become null, complicating the company’s existence.
So what does that cell phone company do? In advance, it manufactures an apparatus knowing that, in a short time, its user will find it old or outdated because it does not have certain functions, it does not allow downloading certain applications, or whatever. At the same time, the user will buy another “updated” or better model, despite the fact that the previous one did not break but still works. Simply, it was “old.”
Also, it may be that the purchased good is broken or damaged and its owner finds it more expensive to repair than to buy a new one. Then, throw away the product you have and buy a new one.
Programmed obsolescence can also be due to “fashions . ” The person does not buy a new pants because the one he had broke or no longer enters but simply because it was out of date and the market launched new models that no longer resemble the previous season.
Examples of consumer societies
Within consumer societies, certain practices that differentiate them from other types of societies can be observed. Some examples that identify them are:
- People consume goods and services in order to meet superfluous or artificially created needs.
- The companies manufacture low quality products, so that they are quickly discarded and replaced.
- Economic success is at the top of the scale of values.
- Consumers use different forms of financing, such as paying in installments by credit card, to spend above their income .
- Consumers are predisposed to use and throw products constantly.
- The identity of people is built based on what they consume.
- The brand becomes an indicator of the social status to which its consumer belongs or aspires to belong.
Causes and consequences of the consumer society
Some of the causes that induce people to buy and thus sustain these types of societies are:
- Fashion. The tastes shared at a time and place by a group of people, push consumers to make goods that fit them, regardless of whether the person really needs that good.
- Advertising. The strategies promoted by companies to create superfluous needs are usually an important engine of consumption.
- Financing. The fact that there are different ways of seizing goods, without counting money at that time, encourages consumption.
Some of the consequences that societies that make sense from consumption can generate are the following:
- Pollution. Consume, discard and buy again, even if the product continues to serve, generates huge volumes of garbage. But also industries, which manufacture constantly and in large quantities, can generate waste and gases that endanger the environment . The huge amount of raw materials that are used to sustain manufacturing volumes and the speed with which those materials are used also have a significant environmental impact.
- Obesity. Advertising also invites food consumption . Many of them are of low quality, very cheap and unhealthy.