Consuming has always played an important part in the shaping of society. It is through consumption that society is able to grow; providing economic stability, numerous jobs and services to the masses. Over the years, people began to consume not only the goods that they needed to live, but many more luxury goods to complement their lifestyles. Society today places a high value on owning many things, and is more dependent than ever on the population’s spending to maintain a healthy economic environment. A society of this type is known as a consumer society.
The success of a consumer society depends on the level of disposable income its participants have. It can offer security and belonging to those who are able to consume efficiently, however, for those restricted by income, it can lead to a certain level of exclusion, thus dividing society to some extent. However it is not just income that affects people’s ability to consume effectively. Factors like age, mobility and ethical choices may also lead to exclusion. The following text will look at the main winners and losers in a society so driven by consumption.
Zygmunt Bauman (1988) notes how a consumer society is open to many people, with those in secure employment and access to cheap credit able to buy into the offerings of such a society, whereas it was only the very wealthy who were able to consume in an industrial society. Bauman believes the population of Western societies can be divided into two broad groups; the seduced and repressed. He says a consumer society offers not only choice and freedom, but also a sense of belonging and self-expression to those who are able to buy beyond the necessary. For Bauman, such people include the employed, the young and the older with good pensions. These he calls the seduced. In contrast, Bauman’s repressed include the unemployed, those in casual employment and people unable to fully participate in a consumer society such as immigrants and people with...
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