Consumer Society

Topics: Sociology, Conspicuous consumption, Thorstein Veblen Pages: 5 (1521 words) Published: February 7, 2013
TMA-02 P1

Outline who are the winners and losers in a consumer society .

A consumer society is a society which is defined as much by what people buy and use as by how they are employed. There has been a gradual change in Britain since the Victorian era from a society defined by class to a society like today defined by consumption. In a consumer society however there are those who benefit from it, the ‘winners’, and those who do not, the ‘ losers’. Consumption is more than purchasing goods to satisfy basic needs such as food and clothing. It is an activity that people take part in to establish themselves as individuals and to show self-expression, as well as identifying themselves as being part of a particular social group. This idea is part of the sociologist Thorstein Veblen theory of ‘conspicuous consumption’ . The social scientist Zygmunt Bauman ( Material lives ,2009 ,p.25) defines people in a consumer society as either ‘ seduced ‘ or ‘ repressed ‘. Those in the ‘seduced’ category are seen as been able to participate effectively in a consumer society, and therefore are considered ‘winners’ . The ’seduced’ consumer has a positive identity. They conform to the ideals of this particular group as they have the financial means to take part fully in a consumer society. The ‘seduced’ are generally in full time employment which then gives them the means to be able to purchase the goods and services necessary for social inclusion. Mobile phone, transport and internet access are all important as tools which facilitate social inclusion. Wearing the right brand or sporting the right logo identifies someone as belonging to a particular social group. Modern society is geared towards facilitating the seduced in their quest for consumption. Credit is more available than ever before, many adverts on U.K. television offer the perfect car or kitchen with a payment plan to suit all needs. Having a large disposable income is no longer needed to be able to create the perfect home environment. Bank loans, mortgages and credit cards are commonplace, all of which enable the ‘seduced’ to have a certain status among society. The other category in Bauman’s concept of a consumer society is the ’repressed’. Those in this category are excluded from consumer society because of certain features in their life. People in the ’repressed’ category are generally unemployed or in low income jobs which hinders them from being effective consumers. Other groups who would have difficulty in becoming effective consumers in a consumer society and who are therefore classified as ’repressed’ are the disabled, migrants, the chronically sick and the elderly who rely on state pensions. What people consume will make up part of their identity and determine their status in society. As such it has become necessary for people to fit in with the aspects of a consumer society in which they wish to participate or they become socially excluded and have a devalued identity (Hetherington , 2009,p.29) . Income is largely the sole determinant in deciding what category of either ’seduced’ or ’repressed’ people fall in to, but there can be others. For example , a young person with a low income could find it easier to fit in and be socially included in a consumer society rather than a person with disabilities or in a older age group on comparable income. The younger person will be more able to adapt to consumption as B5247868 P2

they are likely to be more knowledgeable about it and are able to follow the trend . By having fashionable clothes, going to the right clubs, being fit and healthy and by having a large network with whom they can share similar experiences , they are more likely to be accepted by others . However an older person or a person with a disability will find it harder to be...

References: Allen .J (2009) ‘one stop shopping : the power of the supermarkets ‘ in Taylor, S ., Hinchliffe , S. , Clarke , J . and Bromley , S . (eds) Making Social Lives , Milton Keynes , The Open University .
Bauman , Z. (1988) Freedom , Milton Keynes , Open University Press .
Brown , V. (2009) ‘rubbish society : affluence , waste and values ‘ in Taylor, S. ,Hinchliffe , S . ,Clarke , J . and Bromley , S. (eds) Making Social Lives , Milton Keynes , The Open University .
Global Footprint Network (2008a) Brown , V. (2009) ‘ rubbish society : affluence , waste and values ‘ in Taylor, S. ,Hinchliffe , S . ,Clarke , J . and Bromley , S. (eds) Making Social Lives , Milton Keynes , The Open University .
Hetherington . K (2009) ‘ Consumer society ? Shopping , consumption and social science’ in in Taylor, S ., Hinchliffe , S. , Clarke , J . and Bromley , S . (eds) Making Social Lives , Milton Keynes , The Open University .
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