Consumer Society and Choice

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A consumer society is a post-industrial term used to describe the fact that society is characterised more by what people consume and less by the jobs they do or goods they produce (Hetherington, 2009). As our relationship with consumerism has changed so too have the choices available of why, when, where and how we consume. The first part of this assignment will look at the characteristics of a consumer society, the choices available and identify the divisions created from unequal choices. The second part will consider the role of the Big four supermarkets (TESCO, Asda, Sainsbury and Morrison’s) in providing choice to people. The term consumer society goes beyond the mere act of shopping and the functional use of goods with contemporary society viewing consumerism more as a leisure activity. Warren Susman claims that the services, goods and experiences we consume play a symbolic role in establishing and displaying personal identify and social inclusion to others, a concept he termed the “performing self” (Hetherington 2009, pg43). Zymunt Bauman (cited in Hetherington, 2009, pg25) elaborates further that a “consumer society promises choice and freedom” to those who have the means, mobility and inclination to effectively participate. Clearly such parameters create divisions within society between those who can participate, a category Bauman termed the “seduced” and those who due to personal, financial or moral constraints are restricted, referred to as the “repressed”. Clearly Bauman’s view is very simplistic since the question of establishing identity and how we consume to express ourselves offers choice in itself. Choosing identities in part transcends being rich enough to participate as can be illustrated by the punks wearing bin-bags (Hetherington, 2009 pg.34) Within contemporary society the options available of where, when and how we shop are, on the face of it, vast. The emergence of retail parks, supermarkets and online shopping provide an alternative...
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