Construction of the consumer

25 Apr

The impetetus of people in today’s society is the accumulation of  “stuff”. This is not a natural state of being for humans.People are not naturally  driven to accumulate wealth.

There have historically been many societies were the accumulation of wealth has not been the driving force of  the society. In fact capitalist societies spend more time working than  tribal societies.

Culture as described by anthropologists means The prism through which we interpret and understand the world.

when we are immersed within a particular culture it can be very hard for us  to understand how pervasive our culture can be in determining our view of the world.

An analogy from another culture may help us to understand how persuasive cultural immersion is. Robbins use Navajo sand painting as the analogy.

Navajo sandpainting contains all the elements of what anthropologists often mean by
the term culture. Like the sandpainting, a culture serves to define the universe as it is supposed to exist for a people. The sandpainting contains the key elements and symbols that
people use to locate themselves in physical and social space. It affirms the place of the person in the created world and the values that govern people’s lives. Like the sandpainting, particular cultural representations serve as therapeutic frames that communicate to us
who and what we are and how we figure in the larger order of things. These representations are therapeutic because they help people resolve the contradictions and ambiguities that are inherent in any cultural definition of reality and self.

Every society has those who are given the responsibility to act as gatekeepers for cultural knowledge.

In capitalism, the sand painter works in churches, synagogues, or mosques, and in theaters, in front of television sets, at sporting events, or in the shopping malls that reaffirm the vision of abundance central to
the consumers’ view of the world. Contemporary sandpainters, who include marketing specialists, advertisers, government agents, corporate public relations specialists, entertainers, and journalists, among others, create a vision of the world designed to maximize the production and consumption of goods.

It has not always been like this. About 2 centuries ago peoples main concern was just providing what was necessary for their families. There was  also an attitude of austerity and saving.

This has slowly changed over the last 2 centuries. The driving force in the change from austerity to consumption has been the USA.  Luxuries needed to be transformed into necessities

In America, this was accomplished largely in four ways: a revolution in marketing and advertising, a restructuring of major societal institutions, a revolution in spiritual and intellectual values, and a reconfiguration of space and class.

The first major revolution was in advertising.

Before the late 1880’s no one really thought that advertising and display of merchandise was of much importance.

The displays of commodities helped define bourgeois culture, converting the culture, values, attitudes, and aspirations of the bourgeoisie into goods, thus shaping and transforming them.

The department stores that developed over the next 40 years became cultural primers providing displays of how people should dress and act.

Another boon to merchandising was the idea of fashion: the stirring up of anxiety and restlessness over the possession of things that were not “new” or “up-to-date.” Fashion pressured people to buy not out of need but for style—from a desire to conform to what others defined as “fashionable.”

The second way that things have been changed is by redefining  the  role of societies institutions,each redefining its function to include the

promotion of consumption. Educational and cultural institutions, governmental agencies, financial institutions, and even the family itself changed their meaning and function to promote the consumption of commodities.

The third way was the transformation of the the mind.

The United States underwent a transformation of values from those that emphasized frugality and self-denial to those that sanctioned periodic leisure, compulsive spending, and individual fulfillment.

The main way that this mind change happened was though the mind cure ideology that gripped America at this point.

Thus by the 1930s, the consumer was well entrenched in the United States, complete with a spiritual framework and an intellectual rationalization that glorified the continued consumption of commodities as personally fulfilling and economically desirable and a moral imperative that would end poverty and injustice.

 

Over time the capitalist have realized that they could expand there markets if they wanted to keep making a profit . The first expansion area was to women. After the womens market reached saturation level  they aimed there sights on children. it was realized that children have a major impact on how parents  spend their money. So they started to target children with adverting.

 

The construction of the consumer in the Western industrial countries took a century to accomplish. In the rest of the world it is taking less than a decade. According to recent studies, some 1.7 billion people, 27 percent of the world’s population, can be counted as members of the consumer society, 270 million in the U.S. and Canada, some 350 million in
Western Europe, and 120 million in Japan. The rest live in developing countries, 240 million in China, and 120 million in India alone. In China, automobile sales increased by 60 percent in 2002 and 80 percent in the first half of 2003. If growth continues at that pace, by
2015 China will have more automobiles on the road that the U.S. (Halweil and Mastny 2004:xvii, 3). Capitalism, writes William Leach (1993:388), “had achieved a new level of
strength and world influence, especially in the wake of the collapse of communism.”

 

This has only been a brief overlook of the  development of the consumer.I have only touched briefly upon the what was discussed in depth by Robbins.

My next blog will outline the development of the worker.

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