Consumerism

social and economic order that encourages the purchase of goods and services in ever-greater amounts

Consumerism is a social and economic order and ideology that encourages the acquisition of goods and services in ever-greater amounts.

Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy? ~Isaiah 55:2
We, we know the individuality that isolates the man from other men, the either/or, the lonely-one that leads the flesh to clothing, jewelry, and land, the solitude of sight that separates the people from the people, flesh from flesh, that jams material between the spirit and the spirit. We have suffered witness to these pitiful, and murdering, masquerade extensions of the self. Instead, we choose a real, a living enlargement of our only life. We choose community. ~ June Jordan

QuotesEdit

  • Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy?
  • We, we know the individuality that isolates the man from other men, the either/or, the lonely-one that leads the flesh to clothing, jewelry, and land, the solitude of sight that separates the people from the people, flesh from flesh, that jams material between the spirit and the spirit. We have suffered witness to these pitiful, and murdering, masquerade extensions of the self.

    Instead, we choose a real, a living enlargement of our only life. We choose community.

    • June Jordan, "Black Studies: Bringing Back The Person" (1969), in Civil Wars: Observations from the Front Lines of America (1981), p. 47
  • Eat and drink, but waste not by excess; verily He loves not the excessive.
  • Balloon-frame houses illustrated four of the factors cited then and later to explain the emergence of the American system of manufactures. The first was what economists call demand and what social historians might call a democracy of consumption: the need or desire of a growing and mobile population for a variety of ready-made consumer goods at reasonable prices. Considering themselves members of the "middling classes," most Americans in the 1850s were willing and able to buy ready-made shoes, furniture, men's clothing, watches, rifles, even houses. If these products lacked the quality, finish, distinction, and durability of fine items made by craftsmen, they were nevertheless functional and affordable. A new institution, the "department store," sprang up to market the wares of mass production to a mass public. European visitors who commented (not always favorably) on the relationship between a political system of universal (white) manhood suffrage and a socioeconomic system of standardized consumption were right on the mark. Grinding poverty and luxurious wealth were by no means absent from the United States, but what impressed most observers was the broad middle.
  • Under present conditions, people are preoccupied with consumer goods not because they are brainwashed but because buying is the one pleasurable activity not only permitted but actively encouraged by our rulers. The pleasure of eating an ice cream cone may be minor compared to the pleasure of meaningful, autonomous work, but the former is easily available and the latter is not. A poor family would undoubtedly rather have a decent apartment than a new TV, but since they are unlikely to get the apartment, what is to be gained by not getting the TV?
  • Mass consumption, advertising, and mass art are a corporate Frankenstein; while they reinforce the system, they also undermine it. By continually pushing the message that we have the right to gratification now, consumerism at its most expansive encouraged a demand for fulfillment that could not so easily be contained by products.
  • America’s central organizing principle is thoughtless consumption.
    • Amanda Mull, The Atlantic, 2021
  • Those who buy things out of season, at an extravagant price, expect never to live till the proper season for them.
  • Those who want fewest things are nearest to the Gods.
  • Satiety is generated by wealth, and insolence by satiety.
  • Man derives pleasure while acquiring gain.
  • In urban and rural communities alike, a consumer-consciousness preceded other forms of political or industrial antagonism. Not wages, but the cost of bread, was the most sensitive indicator of popular discontent. Artisans, self-employed craftsmen, or such groups as the Cornish tin miners (where the traditions of the "free" miner coloured responses until the 19th century), saw their wages as regulated by custom or by their own bargaining. They expected to buy their provisions in the open market, and even in times of shortage they expected prices to be regulated by custom also. (The God-provided "laws" of supply and demand, whereby scarcity inevitably led to soaring prices, had by no means won acceptance in the popular mind, where older notions of face-to-face bargaining still persisted.) Any sharp rise in prices precipitated riot. An intricate tissue, of legislation and of custom regulated the "Assize of Bread", the size and quality of the loaf. Even the attempt to impose the standard Winchester measure for the sale of wheat, in the face of some customary measure, could ensue in riots.

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