Consumer society is a concept denoting a set of social relations organized on the basis of individual consumption mediated by the market. Its economic basis is consumer capitalism. The consumer society is characterized by mass consumption of material goods and the formation of an appropriate system of values and attitudes.
The consumer society arises as a result of the development of capitalism, accompanied by rapid economic and technological development and social changes such as income growth, which significantly changes the structure of consumption; a decrease in the length of the working day and an increase in free time; blurring of the class structure; individualization of consumption.
Features of the consumer society
Consumption that goes beyond the struggle for physical existence involves, to varying degrees, the vast majority of the population. Over the past 40 years, personal spending on goods and services around the world has increased.
In trade and the service sector, the role of small shops is decreasing. Large shopping centers and supermarkets begin to play the main role. Shopping and shopping is becoming widespread, which becomes a popular form of leisure and an end in itself (when goods are purchased not due to practical necessity, but for some kind of moral satisfaction, “shopping for the sake of shopping”).
The revolution in the field of communications (the spread of the Internet, mobile networks) leads to the formation of a new information space and the expansion of the sphere of communication. Moreover, access to this space and participation in communication become paid services, impossible without the presence of an intermediary (provider).
The economic system is closely intertwined with the culture of consumption. Business produces such cultural phenomena as tastes, desires, values, norms of behavior, interests. An important role in this is played by advertising, penetrating into the deepest layers of consciousness.
Producer competition breeds consumer competition. A person in a consumer society strives to consume in such a way that, on the one hand, he is “not worse than others”, and on the other hand, “does not blend in with the crowd”. Individual consumption reflects not only the social characteristics of the consumer, being a demonstration of his social status, but also the characteristics of his individual lifestyle.
A developed credit system appears, bank cards, traveler’s checks, loyalty cards, and the like. All this speeds up the decision-making process when buying.
The credit system turns into the basis of social control, when well-being is based on things purchased on credit and depends on a stable income. In addition to direct loans, the consumer pays the cost of loans from producers and distributors. According to studies conducted by employees of the JAK banking system (Sweden), in Germany by 1993 the average “percentage” component of the total cost of goods and services reached 50%. In 2000, 80% of the population, when buying goods, eventually paid more than 50% of the amount for the “interest” component, for 10% this burden was slightly less than 50%, and only for the remaining 10% additional markups were less than 30% of the final cost shopping.
The structure of the cost of goods and services is changing significantly. Often it includes a symbolic price for a “trademark” (brand), when the goods of “famous” firms can cost much more than their analogues that are no different from them.
The pace of fashion change is accelerating. Things depreciate and become obsolete faster than they physically wear out. A systematic change of some generations of things by others is introduced. In a consumer society, a person “behind the fashion” feels symbolically poor.
Education, above all higher education, is becoming a paid market service purchased on a massive scale.
Physical culture and sports are undergoing the process of commercialization. Professional sports clubs become producers of spectacles and buyers of athletes. Access to physical education is becoming a market service.
There is a commercial standardization of appearance. The so-called “beauty industry” appears. As one example: the widespread use of anti-aging procedures and plastic surgery.