Part 1 of the Contextual Studies Lectures.
What is consumerism?
Put simply, consumerism is an over emphasis on materialistic possessions and values. Individuals relying on bought goods thinking that such things will make them happy.
It became quite apparent throughout the lecture that the act of Consumerism is actually dates back for centuries! One of the earlier examples would be that of ‘exotic’ fruits in Stuart times. As England began to travel to different lands, they would often bring produce back from said countries to boast of their wealth (since the produce were difficult to obtain, only the rich could afford to buy them).
Infact, there was such a soaring rise in popularity of these fruits, they were even featured on architecture as a way to show class amongst the wealthy.
Reflecting on the comment about a higher price paid for the effort put into obtaining/creating objects; we also looked into the idea of Commodity Fetishism- a concept created by Karl Marx. A suggestion that many place excessive importance over brand names, over the products themselves.
An example of this would be cars, the importance of branding, make and model is really pushed in today's society. To the point where people's personalities are pre judged by the type of cars that they drive!
When you come back to basics, a car is truly just a mode of transport. But brands are so overwhelmingly hyped that people seem to lose sight of what they truly need, vs what they think they need- what they think will make them happy…
The act of consumerism plays into the hand of capitalism. We are a generation always wanting more, and consumerism feeds us with ideation of what we think we want.
The prospect of such brought around the discussion of the benefits of consumerism and capitalism.
The main benefit of the system is the inspiration it provides. People aspire to become wealthy and successful within their fields. The high speed environment really pushes people.
As well as this, capitalism creates a demand for jobs, there is a freedom of jobs to choose from.
But in opposition, there are many drawbacks to capitalism. It creates a lot of room for exploitation. Since there isn't equality within the working systems, the people on top often take advantage of those working for them. Meaning living and working situations are often inadequate.
As a whole, I found this lecture very insightful, I for one am no stranger to the act of consumerism, the majority of the time I partake in it without my knowing. There has been countless times, when I have purchased products in order to aid my mood, attempting to better it. Such purchases of course only offer a short term release, and after time I come to the conclusion that it was a false allusion.
As a society, I think it is important for us to take more of a conscious approach to our acquirings, who are they really benefiting? I shall certainly attempt to do as much heading into the future.