How Does Consumer Society Give Us Choice
In this introduction to appositely answer the question on whether consumer society gives us choice, i will be firstly be discussing what consumerism is within the context of cultured capitilist society. Within this essay I will disclose a counter-arguement which will assist me within the context that surround this discussion. To do this i will be examining the following beneficial texts from ‘Making Social Lives. ‘ The following relevance within this source that is integral for the support of this arguement is the sociologist Thorstein Vebenand how he suggests conspicious consumption effects society.
Also Warren Susman indicates we consume for self image. The text that bears references against choices within consumer society is the marxist/postmodernist theorist Zygmunt Bauman. I aim to conclude whether we get choice in a consumer society by looking at supermarkets. This will enable me to correctly identify how much choice people get by looking at statistics from different sources. To begin with, consumerism is a context within cultured capitilism that consists of a social and financial order that is based upon an organized production and inticement of the increased desire to purchase goods.
A consumer society means buying and selling of mass-produced products and services and it is the dominant economic activity that takes place in modern society. There are many factors of consumption to consider including how people have unique personalities and what they consume to express their individuaity. Also how their are divisions in society which is the seduced and repressed. Additionally, conspicious consumers have wealthiness which defines someone just by what they are wearing for example, named brands. Finally, consumption is more than just puchasing things taking into account rubbish and its values.
Firstly, Zygmunt Bauman’s theory to social consumption is the seduced and the repressed. The benefits according to Bauman are acceptance and a sense of belonging in society. Repressed is devalued sense of identity because you do not sustain enough disposable income to socialise with the seduced. Bauman has divided society as there is inequality economically and therefore we can not be treated equally. Bauman suggests that the repressed are at high risk of social exclusion because of the inability to financially socialise. This is because not everyone gets an equal income. (page 139 Matierial lives)
Table 4 shows us the inequality of income and there is a 41% difference the poor and rich;(page 139 Matierial lives) Almost 2. 5 million people are unemployed in modern society. (the guardian statistics) This defines the repressed as the majority of unemployed are inadequately finacially sustainable. This shows how the repressed is socially excuded, therefore there is a clear division in civilization today. However the seduced are the real winners here because they have enough salary to possess nicer things for their home and self image as well as having a good social life.
Secondly, Susman ‘The social role demanded in the new culture of personality was that of a performer. Every… (person) was to become a performing self’ (page 43 matierial lives) Susman suggests from this quote that in order to socially fit in we have to be false; for example dress in a way that other people do to be accepted. Many people possess clothes but continue to shop for the way they look just to keep updated in the fashion industry. He provides an insight of how times have changed over the years and that people have increasingly judged people just by what they wear.
Contrary to this, people have been refused services because they did not wear the correct clothing. Thorstein Veblen adverts that we consume to make ourselves look better through antique items and the goods we have on show; for example, a new prada bag might make a woman seem higher class just because of how much one costs. By observing that this woman has this pricey handbag does not determine whether she has a good personality, but she would be classed seduced by someone that does not know her through wealth.
However Veblen does not suggest that you need wealth to conspiciously consume because it is purely trying to impress other people. ‘The reason why people do this is not simply because they want to show off but because they want to fit in, impress their friends and be accepted into social networks where they feel they ought to belong. ‘ (page 33 making social lives) Supermarkets are in modern society, dominnating the market industry because of a number of different factors. Including, market power, buying power and divided views on the amount of power superstores actually obtain.
Partrick, which is centered next to Glasgow city centre. In partrick there is a run down shopping plaza called Linwood and Tesco wants to transform the building to another big retail store. There are many people in Partrick that seem pleased with the proposed prospect. Other people in this community are against the idea because of what it could do to their local community and they are considering the loyalty of the services provided in their hometown. No matter what happens in this example it will be a zero-sum game. This is because logically not everyone can win.
A positive sum game would be if all or majority of the public in Partrick was to counterbalance the transformation of Linwood. Tesco will get their way because of how a superstore can have so much market power; they put an extreme amount of pressure for planning permission because of the profits and benefits they provide. Therefore if the proposed prospect of transforming Linwood into Tesco was to happen, the people who are against are basically non-existent in society. Joanna Blythman (2005) has put across that larger stores are to blame for corner shops and smaller buisnesses terminating.
She states ‘there were ten bakers; now there are two left. There were eight or nine butchers; now there is one. Of the five fishmongers, one has survived . Where there were half a dozen grocers, one remains’ (page 74 making social lives) Supporting this quote is Andrew Simms. From looking at table 1, there are approxiamately 8,640 supermarkets in the UK today (page 73 making social lives) Andrew Simms published a book named Tescopoly. He talks of ‘tesco town’ and how market power has contributed to the closure of smaller shops.
In Figure 4, the majority of the UK is dominated by Tesco compared to the rest of the supermarkets where competition is concerned. For example, Torquay, Truro, and Salisbury only have Tesco to shop. The people who live here are limited with choice. Andrew Simms makes a point that it is important for consumers to have a variety of choice because different stores provide different products. Society breed habits of consummerism by giving money it gives the public a choice, it is obvious that the seduced gets more choice than the reduced as inequality of finance and zero-sum game.
In my opinion rubbish does give us a choice in consumer society. I think people are oblivious of the fact that rubbish and its disposal effects us globally, not just locally. Since the twenty first century people have become more aware of wastefullness as (table 2 page 117 material lives) since the year of 1999 there has been an increase of 21% where rubbish has been recycled. 21% is a very low statistic considering there is 12 years between then and now. Also, the seduced get a choice whereas the repressed are incompetent in the eyes of Bauman.
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