Advantages and Disadvantages of Consumerism

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Having a great understanding of the components and drivers of worldwide consumer culture is the most important point to gaining closure on consumer behavior, relevant social and organizational aspects and exposing what drives consumers to respond to the driving force of consumption. Therefore, the close relationship between social, political and environmental perspective needs to be investigated widely. The aim of this paper is to analyze the existing literature and discuss the factors contributing to this new trend of consumerism by showing to what extent the factors have influenced people in their areas of locality. Consumption can be termed as working towards satisfying a need. A need can viewed as compulsory for existence and when it is fulfilled it brings pleasure otherwise can bring pain. (Bauman, 1993:21).

Consumption has social and economic associations also connected to time and space, depending on demands such as needs, wants and desires; goods, services and money or some value substituting money that are necessary for fulfilling demands (Corrigan, 1997). This aspects tries to bring together the factors influencing the decision of people towards what is being brought to them and what is favorable to them for consumption. The extent to which consumerist society influences the essence of people within their community can be evaluated from the perspective of human needs. According to Morillo and Pablos (2016), there are several theories that try to illustrate what our needs are and where they come from. For instance, the theory of rational economic man has had an influence on the understanding of consumption and economics. The needs of humanity are what direct them towards objects, which are able to give him satisfaction. Humanity is seen as the focal point from where he or she controls the choice in fulfilling the needs.

Political, Social and Environmental Impact on Consumerism Society

From a political perspective, there have been different theories that have been used to try and explain the aspect of consumption and the political influence some of the products have. Since people, consumers and politically affiliated figures try to use the market as a place of their politics then some of the products in context might suffer a blow or gain popularity leading to higher consumption or low consumption. According to Stolle and Micheletti (2013), they describe consumers’ engagement as an example of individualized responsibility-taking, examining how political consumerism nudges and pressures corporations to change their production practices, and how consumers emerge as a force in global affairs.

Consumerism has become an important belief of present capitalism where individuals have been encouraged to consider themselves as primarily consumers rather than citizens. This ideological shift has been catapulted by capital as a way of growing the economy, individuals and organizations have used this consumer identity to foster government control over business and to protest social, racial, political, and economic injustice. “There is no interest which is more fundamental than that of consumers. All residents of our nation are consumers in large or limited way. No matter what our other interests, we have in common one function—that of consumption” (Cohen, 2003.p. 34).

The idea of using political consumption to try and influence changes to community is not new and there is evidence supporting its use as early as twentieth century. The most memorable use of political consumption was in Denmark in 1990 during the boycott of the Shell oil. Citizens have found new ways to wield political consumption to their advantage by enlarging their scope of concerns from just health issues to human rights. The foundation and popularity of political consumerism is driven by the problems people face and are aware that they cannot be solved by the nation state. With information being readily available due to easy access of internet, behavior of companies have been exposed and that has led to transformation of political consumption from being mainly used by activist to a mainstream behavior. A good example of successful pressure actions are those that were waged against Nike and Gap for their use of cheap labor which led to the companies reevaluating their working relations and established of labor issues and code of conduct.

The market has become a level ground where everybody is able to participate without leaving anyone out. It has revolutionized as a tool for fighting for equal rights for all people irrespective of where you stand in a community. When international politics are being played and try to show that the demands are of the citizens are not achievable, the market has proved to be a sure way to push for the welfare of the citizens and as a possible impact.

Looking on the social perspective consumerism has led to people changing from their norms to realign themselves with the changing trends in the market. For example, it is easy to find people listening to the same music and eating the same kind of food. Popularity in certain trends can influence the thinking of people into almost doing the same thing just to keep up with tend and this is true judging from the fashion industry where people will almost wear the exact clothing a certain model has worn as it is perceived to be the latest and most popular dressing (Ahmadi, 2004). It is true, however, that people will engage in conversations in order to discover what is best for them and as a result, they are able to draw upon shared symbols. Holt et al (2004) define this behavior in the article on how global brands compete. The article notes that it’s not the same way as in the past when the culture was particular and time-bound, but rather, consumption is now affected by a global culture that is universal, timeless, and eclectic and cut off from the past. In the global context, consumption can be defined based on the transformation of needs to desires, utilitarian and hedonic needs-values, commodity fetishism, conspicuous leisure and consumption, differentiation and speed as well as cultural values (Firat et al, 2013).

Cleveland and Laroche (2007), introduces a new dimension on examining consumer society. According to the authors, the global consumer culture or (GCC) can illustrate how consumers acquire knowledge, skills, and behaviors that are in turn influential in their consumer culture. There are different factors that influence the dimension of global consumer culture. One factor is the internet being easily accessible has led to faster widespread of information. As soon as there is something new in the market, it is easy for such news to reach a very large number of people very fast. The other factors include the level of exposures to multinational corporations, cosmopolitanism, openness to the desire to actively participate in the GCC, self-identification with the GCC and the social interactions (Cleveland and Laroche, 2007).

There are other social factors that tend to influence the dynamics of a consumer society. These include assimilation, separation, marginalization, creolization and integration. There are people who have been forced to adapt a new culture while maintaining some of their original culture. For instance, eating pizza is a common Italian delicacy which can be embraced by people who have been assimilated into the Italian culture while some will still consume pizza but stick to their original culture. On the other hand, there are those who show no interest in their original culture or to the new culture and this process is known as the marginalization strategy. The transmutation of local and foreign or global influences can also lead to the creation of a new form of behavior, what Cleveland and Laroche (2007) terms as the Creolization. It is worth noting that these strategies witnessed in the global environment have a direct impact on consumer behavior and consumption.

A quarter of the world population belongs to the ‘consumer class’ which is characterized by its appetite for highly processed food and the desire of a fetish life and lifestyles directed to acquiring of non-essential goods. The rising of a consumption community has helped in creating jobs for many unfortunately, as we venture into the new century the unexpected consumer appetite has undermined the natural system that is depended on by many people and it has proven to be a liability as it is making it very difficult for the poor people to get the basic needs.

On the perspective of the environmental impact of consumer society, the production of cheap products that are meant to get obsolete very quickly are viewed as throwaways the moment they outlive their usefulness. This has brought a devastating effect on the ecosystem, natural resources and water supplies as disposable materials end up in these areas. According to Worldwatch most of the environmental issues being witnessed are directly connected to consumption and may lead to extinct of certain species due to climatic changes.

Items that were once considered as luxuries are now a necessity due to globalization. Globalization has led to the production of good and services that were once not available in developing countries and made them readily available thus they are bought very fast and at an alarming rate. For instance, China which is a developing country, 25 years ago the streets of China were characterized by people with bicycles but towards the beginning of the 21st century 5 million cars were ferrying people on the streets of China and the number is expected to double in coming years.

Continued reliance on automobiles shows there will be more pollution, traffic jams and use of fossil fuels which is the leading air pollution in the world. Changing diet, with mostly meat being the favorite commodity shows the pressure exacted by the expanding consumption. The analysis given by Goodwin et al (2008) is worth pondering on. The authors illustrates how forty-five years ago, the average American ate 197 pounds of meat, used 366 pounds of paper and used an energy that was equivalent to 5.5 metric tons of oil in comparison to what the world is witnessing today, of 275 pounds of meat, using 635 pounds of paper and uses energy equivalent to 7.8 metric tons of oil.

The economy has answers to the increase and the differences that exist between developed and developing countries. To satisfy the ever increasing demand for farm produce, farmers are pushed to go to the extreme to ensure maximum production per unit. That includes using chemicals such as hormones for fattening chicken, starving them so that they can lay eggs and caging birds in small cages to increase their number. Such practices may lead to the spread of diseases and using vaccinations may prove unproductive due to the emergence of drug-resistant microbes. Furthermore, when manure from these farms wash downstream to water sources they cause contamination.

The rise of consumer society has led to a higher demand for food. To ensure food security stringent measures are put in place which includes clearing of forest to expand and create new farming lands. Use of fertilizers and other chemicals to ensure maximum crop production and overuse of the land exhausting its production capabilities. This leads to barren lands and deforestation which promotes global warming.


In conclusion, the political, social and environmental impact on consumer society exposes both the advantages and disadvantages of this emerging trend. Consumerisms creates promotion of jobs and thus improving the living standards of the people. It also provides a platform for the citizens to hold the nation accountable to listen to their grievances by using the market to boycott services and products. Improved living standards have also been touched by consumerism. Once the needs that were viewed as luxury can now be accessed by the middle-class people and are no longer are a luxury but a necessity.

On the other hand, consumerism has posed a danger, especially to the environmental perspective. Production of goods that are cheap and affordable has seen their use last for a short period and dumped indiscriminately leading to the pollution of the environment. Lifestyles have also not been spared as there have been cases of obesity rising being reported due to the consumption of highly processed food. Technological advance has led to dysfunctional social lives. We seem to value modern technologies at the expense of oral socialization that many people were used to in the past (Aldridge, 2003).

Cite this paper

Advantages and Disadvantages of Consumerism. (2021, Jan 15). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-consumerism/



Is consumerism positive or negative?
In an economic sense, it is related to the predominantly Keynesian idea that consumer spending is the key driver of the economy and that encouraging consumers to spend is a major policy goal. From this point of view, consumerism is a positive phenomenon that fuels economic growth.
What are the advantages of consumerism?
There are many advantages of consumerism, including the fact that it encourages businesses to produce more goods and services, which can lead to more jobs and economic growth. Additionally, consumerism can lead to more competition among businesses, which can drive down prices and improve product quality.
What is the disadvantage of consumerism?
The disadvantage of consumerism is that it can lead to excessive consumption and wastefulness. It can also create a sense of entitlement and dissatisfaction with what one has.
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