Sociology of Consumption | Essay

Added on - 18 Sep 2019

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How useful are critiquesof consumerism in thecontext of the sociology ofconsumptionEssayStudent[Pick the date]
The American Sociological Association formally recognizes the “sociology of consumption” andit has two sections under it: one is the section on consumers and other is the section onconsumption. This essay tries to understand that how are the critiques of the “consumerism”useful for the sociology of consumption. For this, firstly, the concept of consumerism shall beunderstood in detail.Consumerism is a social condition which occurs when consumption becomes important to thelives of most of the people and it also becomes their purpose of existence (Karin M. Ekström,Helene Brembeck, 2004). With consumerism, the people gets bound together due to the dilemmathat how they can channel their wants, desires, needs, longings and the pursuit of emotionalintelligence in the consumption of the goods and services (Tilman, 2006, pg. 99). Consumerismis that ideology where the people are seductively bound to the system of mass production ofgoods and services (Dunn, 2008). With this ideology, the consumption of the people getschanged from the ‘means’ to an ‘end’. This makes the acquisition of the goods by people as abasis of their identity and also a sense of self. (Goold, 2010, pg. 15) has said in his book thatconsumerism is a social arrangement that occurs due to the recycling mundane, the regimeneutral human wants and desires, the longings in and the principal propelling force of thesociety. The concept of consumerism acts as a force which helps in coordinating the systematicreproduction, the integration of things socially, the social stratification and the making of theindividuals. This concept also has a role to play in the individual processes and in the self-policies of the group (Bauman, 2007, pg. 42). In other words, consumerism is said to be existingwhen the wants of people, their desires and the longings for the goods of consumers drives thehappenings in the society and when these things becomes responsible for shaping the completesocial system in which the people live. The factors that are responsible for consumerism are1
channeled through consumption and they are inspired and reproduced by the dominantworldview, the culture of the people and the values of the society.Under the concept of consumerism, the consumption habits of the people are defined in such away that the people or the consumers start to understand themselves, they start affiliating withothers and also they start understanding the extent to which the fit within the society and they arevalued by the society at large. But, the concept does not apply to all the people and in allcontexts. There are several critiques that are associated with consumerism which are useful in thestudy of sociology of consumption. The practices of the consumer defines the social and theeconomic value therefore, the consumerism becomes an ideology through which one sees andunderstand the world, the people explore the possibilities in the world and they discover the waysin which they can achieve their wants and desires. The manipulation in the probabilities of thechoices and conduct of the individuals is done by consumerism (Delucchi, 2002, pg. 102). But,in this process, the people tend to become very materialistic as they see everything from theperspective of the things that they buy and they forget to value the people around them.All thewants, longings and the desires of the consumers are shaped by consumerism in such a way thatthe people not only wish to acquire the goods due to their usefulness, but they want to get thegoods due to what the goods say about them, so they start associating themselves with the goodsand lose their individuality. The people look for those goods that are the newest in the marketand best in the fit; also the goods shall outshine the other consumers in the market which createsan unhealthy competition and the feeling of hatred and jealousy arises. Thus, the experience ofconsumerism is similar to that of grabbing the ever increasing volume and intensity of thedesires. The fuel to the consumerism in the society of consumers is given by the plannedobsolescence and the premises which are not only related to the acquisition of the goods, but it2
also related to their disposal (Warde, 2015, pg. 119). Under the concept of consumerism, it canbe understood that, the society of the consumers thrives on the inability of the mass productionand consumption system for meeting the needs and desires of the people. This system promisesto cater to the needs of people but for a short period of time. This concept has not been observesto cultivate happiness among people, instead, it is observed to cultivate fears aiming people. Thefear is of not fitting in the product, not having the right product, not being or looking the righttype of person etc. So, the important critique of this concept is that it is a perpetual non-satisfaction. Thus, consumerism functions upon and also reproduces an insatiability of desiresand needs.Now, the role of sociology in consideration of consumerism will be discussed in this section.Traditionally, the sociology has focused on the causes of consumerism at the societal and theindividual levels. A unique perspective related to the study of consumerism has been brought bythe environmental sociology concept. It focuses on the impact of the natural system on thehumans and the impact that humans have on the environment. In this, the explicit attention ispaid to the social beliefs, the behaviors and the collective actions of the humans. The sociologyapproaches to the concept of consumerism in many different ways.When we talk about consumerism and sociology of consumption, one must understand that howsociology views the concept of consumerism and how the two are related to each other.One ofthe sociological approaches to consumerism is the structural approach where the large socialstructures place an influence on the process of consumerism (Kennedy, 2008, pg. 180. Then,another approach is the work, time and consumerism approach in which the leisure time getsreduced when a person spend more hours in working and this results in increase in the level ofproductivity. When the more hours are spent on the work, then the productivity rises and the3