“Prosperity knits a man to the world. He feels that he is ‘finding his place in it’, while really it is finding it’s place in him.” - Lewis.C.S (1946)
In this essay, the topic of consumer culture will be discussed through referring to various different discourses, which examine how present society has been formed into today’s consumer culture. Consumer’s are overexposed to seductive advertising and barraged by modern day media, which can be seen to have potentially persuasive capabilities, luring consumers into excessive purchasing. Exploring ideals of modernism, which gave consumer culture the grounds to grow, along with theories such as eighteenth century Romanticism and social emulation, will be considered as notions to the birth of consumer culture. Examining two case studies, the first, an editorial advertisement for Louis Vuitton, analysing the effects that the romanticised, glamorous high- fashion lifestyles of the celebrity culture can have on consumer’s personal identities. Secondly, a broadcasted commercial for Reebok shown at the 2011 Superbowl, is an example of today’s advertising techniques and their potential to act as catalysts for spurring on consumer’s spending habits. This essay will effectively demonstrate how consumers could find it difficult to exert any kind of individual power in today’s consumer culture or whether they instead follow exactly what the fashion industry tell them to do so.
Through industrialisation, with mass production, increased availability and reduced prices, consumer culture was born on a basis to flourish. Consumer culture and it’s behavioural choices are considered practices of social and cultural phenomena – as apposed to psychological or purely economical phenomena. Writers such as Celia Lury, discuss that consumerism is very closely concurrent with cultural values and our identities, as it is our economy and explains that we are able to display our identities to others along with our position in the world, through consumption. “Consumption is always a cultural as well as an economic phenomenom. It is to do with meaning, value and communication, as much as it is to do with exchange, price and economic relations.” (Lury, 1999:10) It refers to a family of theoretical perspectives that address the dynamic relationship between consumer actions, the market place and cultural meaning. The question being asked, however, is whether consumer culture and the finality of consumption is based around self-enjoyment and pleasure or whether it is something that is forced upon people, a responsibility that society feels necessary to participate in. “Consumerist man…regards enjoyment as an obligation; he sees himself as an enjoyment and satisfaction business. He sees it as his duty to be happy, loving, adulating / adulated, charming / charmed, participative, euphoric and dynamic.” (Baudrillard, 1998:80)
Theorists, such as Karl Marx argue that culture functions silently and insidiously to keep people ignorant of their true situation and claim that pop-culture serves to reinforce and justify prevailing political ideology and power structure, that consumer culture is an empty experience designed to control people and make members of the consumer society more manageable whilst providing a mirage of happiness. Ordinary people were powerless to fight against the kind of consumer society created by modernity and therefore have become passive and submissive. “The Stronger the positions of the culture industry become, the more summarily it can deal with consumer’s needs, producing them, controlling them.” (Adorno and Horkeimer, 1944:15)
Post-industrial society in the late eighteenth century saw the intellectual and artistic movement of Romanticism, characterized by a heightened interest in creativity, imagination and focus of self-expression, became the most prized personal quality. Having...