American Consumer Culture

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As a country, Americans love to shop. Whether in malls, grocery stores, on the Internet, or elsewhere, the culture of buying is deeply ingrained in American culture. Fueled largely by advertising and the current credit system, America’s consumer culture is depleting our planet’s finite natural resources and polluting our environment. Consumerism has instilled in Americans an artificial, ongoing, and insatiable desire for mass-produced and marketed products, and the money with which to buy them, with little regard to their actual usefulness or necessity. This constant desire to acquire more possessions is poisoning the planet, as it can never be sated and thus results in the never-ending exploitation of the Earth’s natural resources, and the resulting pollution. America’s consumer culture is not only wrecking havoc on the Earth, but by virtue of constantly making shoppers think they need new products they had no prior desire to own, is also creating a citizenry of perpetually dissatisfied and discontent consumers. The purchasing and consuming of materials in quantities greater than necessary for basic survival has existed as long as civilization has. The term “consumerism” in the sense of emphasis on the acquisition of consumer goods was first used in the 1960s. The beginning of the rise of American consumerism is difficult to pinpoint, but most historians would say that it was the time throughout the twentieth century, especially around World War I. Charles Kettering, of General Motors, was speaking of consumerism when he said, "The key to economic prosperity is the organized creation of dissatisfaction" ( ). The first quarter of the twentieth century was a time of many technological advancements in America, which led to more efficient production processes. The rise of consumerism in the United States is also linked to the birth of public relations. Around 1915, the “father of modern public relations”, Edward Bernays, came up with propaganda techniques for...
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