From civicintelligence
Throw away the old to make way for the new


Consumerism is a cultural system that is predominantly based on the acquisition and display of material goods. Although consumerism is enacted individually by people who are seemingly driven internally to buy consumer goods (never staples), the drive can probably be traced to a media-induced need production which convincingly defines what the “good life” and how it can be purchased. It also sets up the standards of status through which people can be judged and these are in turn taken up by peer groups who help maintain the system. [1]

How it Works

In order for consumerism to work in any society people need to have disposable income (money left over once basic needs like food, water, and shelter are met). It helps if the members of this society believe that their consumerism is good for the society at large, for example: after World War 2 American citizens were encouraged to buy new products to help the economy recover after the war and the great depression [2].

A large middle class, with disposable income, and not much to worry about, is also very beneficial to creating a culture of consumerism. Consumerism also thrives when people spend a large portion of their time doing things other than work. The 40 hour work week, having several full days off a week, and having the ability to take extra time off from work, all help consumerism to thrive.



Environmental Degradation is linked to this pattern in that consumerism is a major cause of Environmental Degradation in that it uses vast amounts of environmental resources and creates vast amounts of waste for the environment.

Compartmentalization of Knowledge works with consumerism in that many people really do not have access to the knowledge of what the effects of consumerism actually are, like the waste created or non-renewable resources used.

Denialism: Consumerism relies on denialism to function when people do know the negative effects of consumerism but chose to be in denial about these effects anyway.

Activism Delegitimization works with perpetuating consumerism in that attempts are often made to delegitimize the activists who speak out against consumerism, such as the "Hippie" Movement of the 60's and 70's (In the USA).

Affluenza is a term used to describe a kind of chronic consumerism. It could be said that it is consumerism taken to its natural conclusion.


  1. Miles, Steven. "Consumerism: as a way of life." (1998).
  2. Consumption and Consumerism: