A Consumerist Culture is that shaped by Consumerism A feature of this is a society of consumers, those who consumer material goods and products. Sociologist Zygmunt Bauman describes this culture as one that values transience and mobility over duration and stability. It looks at newness of this and the reinvention of our personal self. Consumerist Culture has no use of delays, it centres around the immediate. It encompasses individualism and temporary communities. The idea of “emergency” is on trend, everything done in a hastened rush and there is constant pressure to be someone else.
Colin Campell states that Consumerism is a social condition that is present when consumption becomes central to our everyday lives. This involves the consumption of all goods. Robert G Dunn encompasses it as an ideology that is “seductive”, it binds people to the system of mass production. However many goods we have, what products we own becomes our identity.
Consumerism takes form of our wants and needs. Consumerism started from the Industrial Revolution where is was possibly to create mass production, not only in products but also in design. Different materials and machines enabled this fast growth to this. In the USA, mass production was encouraged more than in Europe due to cheap labour and availability. Mass production also lowered costs of products and Standardisation of these products happened in the USA long before anywhere else in the world.
However contrasting with this Mass Consumption was a British Phenomenon first. It came down to the expansion of the market and the growth of the population, spending power was increased and there was constant changes in the taste of the general public. All of the above contributed to how man interacted with material goods. It encouraged people to purchase more and want to purchase. Industrial methods were adapted so the companies could compete to the needs and demands of the public. At this time, design was also crucial as an aide to the production. This would appear in machines but also furniture design as electricity became a day to day luxury, there would be the increase in the need for home products.
More and more goods were available to what was called “The British Consumer” in the latter half of the 19th century. For example the vacuum cleaner which had made its way across the pond from America in 1914. Sewing machine had enabled a transformation in the textile industry and cars and bicycles has become more and more frequented. The growth of the textile industry enabled companies such as Peter Robinson and department stores to set up shop in Oxford Street.
Advertising became a central drive for Consumerism and the Consumerist Society that had been created. There was a constant need to sell out against the competition. Design became prominent in Advertising and created a lever for the productive industries. People would see more advertisements that would only encourage them this was the product they needed and had to have to be “better” than everyone else.
It is true that this consumer society has never stopped growing and expanding, especially in the digital era which we now find ourselves. There is still a constant urgency to be better and have more products that are up to date than everyone else. We can still see this emergency trend in London where life is becoming more fast pace. As a consequence of this some people choose to live their lives away from these societies, depriving themselves of technology and going back to basics. Consumerist Culture is always going to be a perpetual phenomenon and it will never cease, however without it we would have most likely never have reached where were are today.
Sparke, P, An Introduction to Design and Culture in the Twentieth Century, 1986, Unwin Hyman Ltd