The cult of consumerism, and the death of humanity….

A basic definition of consumerism:

Consumerism is a social and economic order that encourages an acquisition of goods and services in ever-increasing amounts. With the industrial revolution, but particularly in the 20th century, mass production led to overproduction—the supply of goods would grow beyond consumer demand, and so manufacturers turned to planned obsolescence and advertising to manipulate consumer spending.  In 1899, a book on consumerism published by Thorstein Veblen, called The Theory of the Leisure Class, examined the widespread values and economic institutions emerging along with the widespread “leisure time” in the beginning of the 20th century. In it Veblen “views the activities and spending habits of this leisure class in terms of conspicuous and vicarious consumption and waste. Both are related to the display of status and not to functionality or usefulness.” 

In economics, consumerism may refer to economic policies which emphasise consumption. In an abstract sense, it is the consideration that the free choice of consumers should strongly orient the choice by manufacturers of what is produced and how and therefore orient the economic organization of a society (compare producerism, especially in the British sense of the term). In this sense, consumerism expresses the idea not of “one man, one voice”, but of “one dollar, one voice”, which may or may not reflect the contribution of people to society.

Veblen asserts that the contemporary “lords of the manor,” the billionaire businessmen who own the means of production, have employed themselves in the economically unproductive practices of conspicuous consumption and conspicuous leisure, which are useless activities that contribute neither to the economy nor to the material production of the useful goods and services required for the functioning of society, while it is the middle-class and the working-class who are usefully employed in the industrialised, productive occupations that support the whole of society, pays most of the taxes, allows the economy to function and in effect subsidizes the rich or leisure class. This is a remarkably accurate and even prescient account by Veblen of what is happening today, yet one would never think so if you turned on your television.

The reason why one wouldn’t think so is because of the existential dangers of the advertising industry, an industry whose sole existence rests on the philosophy of brainwashing or duping the populace into purchasing ever more unnecessary items they’ll probably discard later on or forget all together. In effect, the advertising industry uses the twin psychological devices of undermining the working class and painting the super-rich as the ideal men, people we should emulate at every turn. This has the net effect of the average person working ever harder to become rich, and/or to gets himself into unmanageable debt in his quest to acquire the toys of the rich. Voila, the more debt we create, the richer the rich get in an ever more vicious spiral until something has to give. Well, look at the disastrous effects of consumption on our psyches, the environment and the climate? Barely two generations of hard-core consumerism has done more damage to everything and everyone (excessive greed) around us, yet we steadfastly and like lemmings rush to ever increasing cycles of consumerism what with “Black Friday” and now the Xmas and holiday season on our doorsteps… 

“Girls prefer walking around in the shopping malls instead of visiting the library”

-Noam Chomsky