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Defining the term "consumerism"[edit]

Relationship to Materialism[edit]

These are some questions that come to mind the subject of which I am by no means an authority:

(a) how is consumerism related to materialism?
(b) do products and services reflect underlying "values," i.e. there cannot truly be a division between our spiritual and consumer lives, however unconscious of these values we may be?
(c) if the person who builds the transportation, for example, allowing one to get to a hospital for life-saving treatment, performing as meritorious a service as the doctor who then performs the life-saving treatment? Do not these increase life, liberty and happiness and as such, should not be condescended to as bourgeois practices versus supposedly elite spiritual concerns?
(d) is there a lingering snobbery towards consumerism akin to that of the English landed aristocracy over crass commercialism?
(e) Has the concept of "values" transcended the categories of consumerism, materialism and religion?
I am no authority either, but here is my response:
Re (a) The short answer is that one achieves materialism through consumerism. One has to buy more stuff to have more stuff. However, some argue as to whether the two goals are complementary. I will admit that the concept of immaterial consumerism is confusing.
Re (b) The short answer is no. From the point of view of a diehard baseball fan, the baseball game ticket will be worth more than the football game ticket since baseball is his/her "religion". Even more unconscious is the decision to buy Coke or Pepsi.
Re (c) Merit depends on the rarity of the skill and the marginal increase in life, liberty, happiness, etc. If anyone can provide such transportation, but not anyone can provide the treatment, then the doctor who provide the treatment will have or considered to have more merit. If, however, the patient lives in a third world country while the treatment can be easily preformed in any first world or second world countries, then it is often the case that the person, who donated the trasportation or travel fare, is considered as having more merit.
Re (d) The debate is still on. However, some feel that consumerism is more representative of the common people. In the Consumerism-Utopia, producers will respond immediately to consumer demands and adjust their production accordingly regardless of what the owners wanted to produce or what the workers are better at producing.
Re (e) There is no short answer. Materialism considers the value of the product. Consumerism takes into account the value of the product AND also the process of buying with the increase in happiness ("value") from the such action. Immaterial Consumerism goes further to address intellectual property and some argue spirituality.
aCute 1 July 2005 05:08 (UTC)

Reorganize Proposal[edit]

I propose spliting the "Consumerism" article into:

(1) "Consumerism (Popular Usage)" as a short form of "Consumer-Activism" meaning "the promotion of the consumer's interests".

(2) "Consumerism (Economic)" refering to the _traditional_ "theory that an increasing consumption of goods is economically desirable"

(3) "Neo-Consumerism (Business/Economic)" refering to the "consumption of ideas, messages, arts (especially electronically-reproducible arts), intellectual property, identity, etc."

(4) "Neo-Consumerism (Social)" with the recently removed identification with consumer goods brought back, as well as referring to the selling of intellectual property;

(5) "Consumerism (Political)" as a political ideal with the following factions (acticle-sections).

(5a) "Consumerism (Political)" as a political ideal of (1) fighting for consumer-rights.

(5b) "Consumerism (Political)" as a political ideal of (2) fighting for free-markets for consumers but against monopolies by businesses.

(5c) "Consumerism (Political)" as a political ideal of (3-4) fighting for the reduction of rules in marketing.

(6) "Anti-Consumerism (Political)" with the criticism made by Marx

Note: "Neo-Consumerism" is sometimes refered as "immaterial consumerism" .

Note: There are more, but this is all I can remember for the moment.

PS: I am poor with wikipedia-edit so please help me on this.— Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 05:16, 24 May 2005

Merge from affluenza and anti-consumerism[edit]

Affluenza seems, according to that article, to be a popular synonym to consumerism that is used a bit more seriously in Australia, but I don't think that justifies a separate article. Only problem I see: What do we do with category:Portmanteaus? — Sebastian (talk) 07:56, 21 November 2006 (UTC)

Anti-consumerism largely overlaps with this article. Basically, the criticism section of each is the description of the other. And the criticism section of consumerism is bigger than the rest of this article!

I only used mergefrom here to keep the discussion in one place; there are good reasons to keep the name "anti-consumerism" for the merged article. — Sebastian (talk) 06:36, 23 November 2006 (UTC)

I agree, "anti consumerism" article could be merged but it should keep a special secction for its own. --Felipe.herrerias 14:33, 22 March 2007 (UTC)

I disagree, at least at this point. The Consumerism page is dominated by the criticism section as it is. The anti-consumerism page is nearly 3 times as long alone. I suggest leaving them be (for the meantime) until the article is more balanced between the pros and cons of the subject (in fact I'm going to move a bit of the section to the "main" article then add the main bracket link to reduce on duplication of information). Appologies if I'm being too bold. Radagast83 18:10, 31 March 2007 (UTC)

Consumerism of the anti-consumerist[edit]

Sorry to sound positively post-modern, but I found this article really interesting [1]. The whole thing is worth reading but I thought this section was particularly intriguing. I'd write some of this stuff in myself but frankly I'm a rubbish writer so I thought someone else might want to have a crack. --Kick the cat 02:16, 15 November 2006 (UTC)

Consider Naomi Klein.

She starts out her book No Logo by decrying the recent conversion of factory buildings in her Toronto neighborhood to quote, 'Loft living condominiums'. She makes it clear to though to the reader that her place is the real deal, a genuine factory loft, stepped in working class authenticity, yet throbbing with urban street colour and culture and what she calls quote, ' a rock video aesthetic'. Klein also drops enough hints about her neighborhood that any reader familiar with Toronto knows that she was living in the King-Spadina area and any reader with a feel for how social class in Canada works would know that at the time Klein was writing, a genuine factory loft at King-Spadina area was one of the coolest, most desirable pieces of real-estate in the country.

Unlike merely expensive neighborhoods in Toronto like Rosedale and Forest Hill, where its possible to buy your way in, genuine factory lofts in Klein's neighborhood could be acquired only by people with superior social connections. This is because they contravened zoning regulations and so could not be bought or leased on the open market. Only the most exclusive segment of the cultural elite, the genuinely cool people, could get access to them.

Unfortunately for Klein, the City of Toronto, as part of a very enlightened and successful strategy to slow urban sprawl, decided to re-zone all the downtown neighborhoods to permit mixed usage's. King-Spadina was re-zoned to permit any combination of industrial, commercial, and residential use. Before long, an enormous revitalization of the neighborhood began as old warehouses and factories were renovated, condominium complexes were built, new restaurants opened and so forth. Yet, in Klein's perspective it was a disaster, why? Because the re-zoning allowed yuppies to buy there way into her neighborhood, something they previously could not do. What's wrong with yuppies? Other than being yuppies, what crime did they commit?


Here we can see the real problem. It's not the landlord threatening to drive her from the neighborhood, it's the fear of loss of distinction. What Klein fails to observe is that the cachet associated with her neighborhood is precisely what's driving the real estate market. It's what creates a value of all these yuppie loft living condominiums. People buy these lofts because they want to be cool like Naomi Klein. Or more specifically they want some of her for social status. And naturally she's not immune.

No definition[edit]

The introduction of this article doesn't immediately define what consumerism is and rather states what it isn't. It comes off as more technical than it has to be, or as something that should be further down in the article in a section about "different definitions of consumerism". Could someone with more knowledge of this please improve the introduction? Thanks. --Tom (talk - email) 13:34, 30 August 2007 (UTC)

Strongly agree (though I can't be of much help, at least in the short term). Consumerism opens with "Consumerism is a term that can mean either the opposite of anti-consumerism..." Anti-consumerism opens with "Anti-consumerism is the rejection of consumerism." Circular and completely unhelpful. Does "Consumerism" exist outside of the arguments of the anti-consumerists? --Dcfleck 14:25, 3 September 2007 (UTC)
I looked back in the edit history, and apparently User:Gomm changed the introduction around July 23. I restored the intro prior to his changes, and moved what he added down to the "usage" section. --Tom (talk - email) 17:46, 3 September 2007 (UTC)


1st sentence: "Consumerism is the equating of personal happiness with the purchasing of material possessions and consumption." Later: "Anti-consumerism is the socio-political movement against consumerism. In this meaning, consumerism is the equating of personal happiness with the purchasing material possessions and consumption"

Hence, the article is at least in part defining consumerism from an anti-consumerist viewpoint, which surely raises issues of bias, does it not? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:39, 12 January 2008 (UTC)

is consumerism defined by anti-consumerism[edit]

Does anyone even identify as a consumerist? Looks like this word is only used for name calling and hence it should be merged with anti-consumerism (talk) 10:13, 31 July 2008 (UTC)


How do you call the persons that reject unneeded consumption? --Dagofloreswi (talk) 00:21, 18 February 2009 (UTC)

"Consumerism" is missing a citation of proponents[edit]

(I am new here, and not quite sure how to say this)

The word "consumerism" and the definition given here is something I only ever hear from people who are criticizing it.

I have never heard even a single person claim that physical possessions are equal to personal happiness. I would normally go to an encyclopedia expecting an article about a particular philosophy to first explain who came up with it and/or who believes it.

If nobody can find an example of it, maybe the "consumerism" URL should just forward to some anti-consumerism article (which is hopefully neutral). —Preceding unsigned comment added by Carl-3.1415 (talkcontribs) 01:17, 30 November 2009 (UTC)

basicly,you buy to feel happy,but some days later,you will want to feel happy again,and buy more and more.this tipe of person is called consumestic and they don't s —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:14, 18 February 2010 (UTC)

I did some updates and added some sources; feedback welcome. --Zujine (talk) 23:43, 8 March 2010 (UTC)

Article rating[edit]

WikiProject class rating[edit]

This article was automatically assessed because at least one WikiProject had rated the article as start, and the rating on other projects was brought up to start class. BetacommandBot 03:52, 10 November 2007 (UTC)

Version 0.7[edit]

This topic is certainly important, but the article needs a lot of work before it can be included. It needs really to be B-Class or better, more comprehensive and with a set of reliable sources, and generally stronger content. Please be sure to nominate this again once the article reaches a B. Thanks, Walkerma 04:19, 13 July 2007 (UTC)

Deleted material[edit]

Removed material[edit]

Keeping this for when the history section is written:

After the thriftiness of World War I, the 1920s saw a burst of personal prosperity and consumer spending unrivaled in decades past. In 1850 the national annual income per capita (per person) was $95. In 1918 it had risen to $586, an increase far greater than the rate of inflation. In 1900 the average family had to spend 60 percent of its income on basic necessities; this figure dropped to 50 percent by 1920. More than the roar of sports crowds or the melodies of jazz music, the sounds that marked the decade were the hum of factories producing millions of consumer goods and the clattering of busy cash registers. And behind the scenes, a powerful new business-modern advertising-steadily grew to help sell this outpouring of products to American consumers. Stirling Newberry 02:52, 30 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Re: Identity[edit]

I am curious as to why the section "Identity" is removed. "Identification" is an aspect of "neo-consumerism", wherein the implied message, hidden value, or associated political-identity of the "brand" is purchased. Conversely, it can also be viewed as the selling of intellectual-property.

I re-labeled the section "identification" to "criticism", to more accurately reflect the content. The word "identification" is confusing -- I assume you mean the theory/criticism that some consumers' self-identity is wrapped up in the name-brand products they buy. Louisducnguyen

However, calling it "criticism" lacks NPOV. There are people who really self-identify with name-brand in a non-negative manner (ie: without becoming a fetish). Some have compared this situation with the period of over-priced arts from the age of old. The only difference being the fact that the "art" (ie: intellectual property) is produced by a group of "artists" (ie: marketing department) instead of one master as well as the "art" is purchased by a group of lower- to middle-class loyal "audiences" (ie: brand-loyal consumers) instead of upper-class art collectors. "Identification" should be a written as a neutral observation of the result of immaterial consumerism and not as a one-sided "criticism". aCute 05:17, 25 Jun 2005 (UTC)


With this edit, I removed three external links that had been added by anonymous editors. They actually may be interesting, but they're missing the topic. To the editors who added them: Please find articles where they actually fit and let the community decide if they do fit. I could e.g. imagine a link to Kunkelfruit from particular product articles. — Sebastian (talk) 23:19, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

Removal of Text.[edit]

IP user removed all the un-cited text.--gordonrox24 (talk) 16:27, 12 April 2009 (UTC)


History of consumerism[edit]

As per my edit that was duly deleted from the article, consumerism is as old as the first civilizations (see history of Egypt and Babylon) and is apolitical, not just systematic of capitalism (see China and Saudi Arabia). I made this point in the article not to underestimate the destructive capability of modern day consumerism but to highlight that it is a path humanity has been on for thousands of years. It is more a reflection on us as individuals than any political or social idealogy. For us to change, if we want to or feel we need to, we would each have to embrace a simple living lifestyle. Also, there is no "History" section in the article, it is far older than Karl Marx. --nirvana2013 11:20, 6 January 2006 (UTC)

History of Consumerism II[edit]

For the sake of ease, this is the History section of the article:

Although consumerism is commonly associated with capitalism and the Western world, it is multi-cultural and non-geographical, as seen today in Tokyo, Singapore, Shanghai, Taipei, Tel Aviv and Dubai, for example. Consumerism, as in people purchasing goods or consuming materials in excess of their needs, is as old as the first civilizations (see Ancient Egypt, Babylon and Ancient Rome, for example). Since consumerism began, various individuals and groups have consciously sought an alternative lifestyle through simple living.

While consumerism is not a new phenomenon, it has only become widespread over the 20th century and particularly in recent decades, under the influence of neoliberal capitalism and globalization.

I have a few problems with this, but thought I would air these here rather than making a direct edit. It ain't bold, but I can foresee a few disagreements with what I have to say.

  1. "As seen in Tokyo, Singapore, Shanghai...". OK. These are not Western cities, certainly, but what with global capitalism the whole point of using these of examples as how consumerism is multi-cultural and non-geographical is somewhat flawed. I take the point that many ancient and classical civilisations consumed materials in excess of their needs (see below for my problem with this), and the need to specify that "consumerism" is not simply a phenomenon of specifically Western capitalsim, but these locales all seem tied in to global capitalism. And, just because China is a nominally communist state (personally I prefer the term "state capitalism"), that does not mean that there are not pockets of consumerism which are dependent on a capitalist or pseudo-capitalist setup.
  2. I do not think one can align the decadence of late Rome with "consumerism". The whole point of consumerism is that it is open to all; the decadence of late Rome certainly was not. If anything, these ancient civilisations "purchased above their needs" in order to demarcate between the ruled and the rulers. Kings need luxurious palaces so that people think they are special. I appreciate that this continues in the current age, with celebrities for example often being associated with their ability to purchase, but I think consumerism and purchasing above ones needs are separate things.
So what you're saying is that consumerism used to be only practised by the ruling elite and the powerful, and is now pretty much practised by everyone? Fair point. nirvana2013 18:15, 4 May 2006 (UTC)

Relationship to other fields[edit]

Consumerism & Environmental Crisis'[edit]

Just reading in the new internationalist about "ethical consumerism" and I thought, wait a minute, consumerism is what's screwing over the earth (ie, Amerika needing 5.5 planets in order to survive it's current materialistic, consumerist lifestyle) and I was wondering if we should put in the relationship between consumerism (consume mean {from the oxford dictionary} use up, completely destory, use up all energy) and the environmental and political problems we are facing today. Just to name a few Peak Oil, Climate Change (although beware about CC, more than 99% of scientists believe it's caused by us, it's just that through the corporate media etc it's able to spread alot of misinformation) Over Population the upcoming Water Crisis, deforestation, widespread flora and fauna extinction, not being self sustainable, sweatshops, rich countries exploiting the poor (see World Bank/IMF/WTO or neoliberalism), corporate led globalisation etc. This view is from an amateur anarchist/primitivist so some people may disagree with the neoliberal part (look at what NAFTA did to mexico). Cheers 06:45, 10 November 2006 (UTC)

Environmentalism and Consumerism[edit]

I have heard of a new environmental movement that seek to use consumerism theory to promote environmental values. Let's say the issue is pollution from automobile. Instead of lobbying the government to have tougher regulations or protesting the automobile producers to stop producing fossil fuel cars, these groups will try convincing the consumer the merit of buying hybrid cars or alternative-fuel cars. From a material and function perspective, a fossil fuel car and a hybrid car is the same, while it will be seemingly counterintuitive to buy a more expensive hybrid car. So, I believe this is a reflection of *immaterial consumerism* as these groups are trying to "sell" to the consumer the notion and the sense of *moral superiority* in buying a more environmentally friendly and usually costly alternative. (PS: Since no original research is allowed, currently is in the process of finding journals which mentioned this.) aCute 18:26, 8 January 2006 (UTC)

Relation to Public Relations[edit]

I would like to include a section on the Public Relations profession and advertising/marketing, which applied Sigmund Freud's theories to sustain mass consumption patterns. The founder of public relations theory was Sigmund Freud's nephew Edward Bernays. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Mikem1234 (talkcontribs) 19:53, 6 June 2011 (UTC)

Relationship to capitalism[edit]

"While consumerism is not a new phenomenon, it has only become widespread over the 20th century and particularly in recent decades, under the influence of neoliberal capitalism and globalization."
This really is the kind of thing that can be backed up by reputable sociology. Is anyone in a position to do that? It would look good, shame to delete it. Alan Parmenter 13:42, 17 December 2006 (UTC)

External websites[edit]

Unique Wiki Labeling on *All* Consumer Products and Ads[edit]

Would this proposal I posted in the Proposal section of Wikipedia be relevant to this article and editors.

It's also kind-of at

What do you think? For The Life, Greentopia 20:34, 7 March 2007 (UTC)

broken link[edit]

this external link is dead.

Problems with article[edit]

Counter arguments part of the text[edit]

"...the logical outcome of the anti-consumerism movement would be a return to the sumptuary laws that existed in ancient Rome and during the Middle Ages, historical periods prior to the era of Karl Marx in the 19th century..."

Is it really necessary to say that ancient Rome and Middle Ages were before the 19th century?!?! It's as stupid as saying e.g. "The Great depression in the 1920s-1930s happened in the historical period prior to the US presidential elections 2008"— Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 23:25, 2 December 2008


This article is definitely POV, for example: "Few would yet go so far, though, as to admit that their relationships with a product or brand name could be substitutes for the healthy human relationships lacking in dysfunctional modern societies." That definitely has a POV on modern societies.

It's on my rewrite list - it is both inaccurate and POV, since "consumerism" also applies to the idea that consumers structure the economic life of society. Stirling Newberry 01:45, 20 Jan 2005 (UTC)

"History has shown that anything that is an "ism" is not a good thing. George W Bush, US President claims he is spreading democracy, but the reality is the US spreading "Consumerism", and that can only be good for existing Consumer driven ecomomies." This phrase is also blatantly POV and provides no source for the first claim, and thus I have removed it. QuinnHK 09:14, 20 November 2006 (UTC)

Lack of sources[edit]

When I read through this article, many of the sourced statements are written as if they are the views of the person who wrote the Wikipedia article with the sources used to back his/her views. It could help to specify the sources in the article body (e.g., [X] stated that ...). —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:42, 27 December 2008 (UTC)

Unsourced statements[edit]

This page is rampant with unsourced statements that really should be removed. It's embarrassing to read this article on Wikipedia with so much unverifiable information. I understand that this is a sociological topic, so almost all of the information about it is going to be essays, papers, and books written by sociologists. That leads to POV problems and then arguments over who's argument is more correct and more valid. I'd love to remove the unsourced statements, but this article would be pretty bare without them. A lot of work needs to be done here, either by truncating the article to a couple paragraphs or by doing better research. Angryapathy (talk) 15:59, 17 April 2009 (UTC)

Criticism section[edit]

There's some unsourced stuff in the Criticism section that makes sense, but it's poorly worded and laid out, and has no citations to boot. I'm putting it here so that it can be sorted out and hopefully reinserted:

In a capitalistic market aimed at selling, certain trends may emerge:

It is in the interest of product advertisers and marketers that the consumer's needs and desires never be completely or permanently fulfilled, so the consumer can repeat the consumption process and purchase more products.

Made-To-Break products are more beneficial to the producer, marketer and thus the entire market. Thus, planned obsolescence is embedded in the manufacturing and marketing process of new goods and services.

It is also profitable to the producer to make their products part of a continuously changing fashion market. By doing this, items that are still in good condition and can last for many years are deemed in need of constant replacement, in order to keep in synch with current fashion trends.

In this way, steady profits are assured for this self-perpetuating system, but consumers are not comfortable or satisfied for a significant length of time with what they own.


Can this quote be added to article ?:

[1] (talk) 07:17, 24 March 2011 (UTC)

Other sources[edit]

Capitalist ethics[edit]

According to Arjen Hoekstra, the current unregulated capitalist/consumerist trading system is unethical. Arjen Hoekstra compares the consumption of products made at such a fashion that it devestates the local environment (bringing people locally in trouble) withthe handling of stolen goods. He says that it is "playing innocent while purchasing a bycicle for 10$ of a junkie".

Perhaps it can be added in article. The analogy used above (which is I believe very accurate) could be mentioned. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:27, 4 July 2009 (UTC)

Thomas Malthus[edit]

I think it would enhance this article to discuss the relationship of consumerism to Thomas Malthus' predictions of scarcity, i.e., that the demand for food and resources always outstrips the supply. He argued this in An Essay on the Principle of Population. It would seem that at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution (1798), this kind of middle class lifestyle would not have been conceivable. Maybe someone could discuss the revolution in technology that allowed for more surpluses to be produced and thus for consumerism, making Malthus' theory inaccurate, or the change in relations in the global economy with the Third World, i.e., the results of colonialism and imperialism.

Quoting the article: "While previously the norm had been the scarcity of resources, the Industrial Revolution created an unusual economic situation. For the first time in history products were available in outstanding quantities, at outstandingly low prices, being thus available to virtually everyone. So began the era of mass consumption, the only era where the concept of consumerism is applicable."--Michael 20:31, 6 June 2011 (UTC)

Michael, it doesn't look like you ever went further with this idea. I think Malthus's views are quite interesting, especially in the context of his contemporaries. If no one else is going to take the helm on this, I'll throw my hat into the ring. —Zujine|talk 02:04, 19 February 2012 (UTC)
Absolutely. Malthus gets to the crux of the whole matter of sustainability. Logically, Consumerism should be a temporary phenomenon. But as much as tech and manufacturing have allowed Consumerism to be possible, is it not moreso marketing, advertising, and media that have driven demand for goods and services, many of which most of us could probably easily live without? I'm a devout capitalist, btw.

potential resource[edit]

Shiny Objects; Our Obsession with Possessions and the Truth About Why We Buy by James A. Roberts ISBN-13: 9780062093608 (talk) 00:17, 7 December 2011 (UTC)

Sources copied from article[edit]

All of these were in a further reading section but since they cover specific aspects of consumerism and do not address the topic directly, I do not feel that they are good sources for general understanding of the subject. I am copying them here because these are still sources which could be used to develop this or other articles on consumerism.

Horace Kallen[edit]

How is that this page does not reference Kallen's work, The Decline and Rise of the Consumer (1936)? Essentially, working for the benefit of others, without proper recompense, was (is) the lot of the most. Spreading the ability to consume can lessen that lot, somewhat. Kallen, in his look 80+ years ago, raised issues that are still poorly understood. How can his thoughts be ignored? jmswtlk (talk) 21:37, 7 September 2013 (UTC)

Blue Rasberry (talk) 13:24, 23 April 2013 (UTC)

  1. ^ [ Quote by Will Rogers