Consumerism

Economists attribute economic growth and development to various factors, such as education and free access to information. Economists claim that education is one of the key pillars of economic development since, through education a country’s populace is empowered to be economically productive.

Moreover, freedom and democracy are also major factors in driving economic growth and prosperity. In the current information age, attempts have been made to ease access to information as a means of economic development. it is emerging that economic growth and development is due to consumer culture, rather tan the factors mentioned earlier. Consumerism increases demand for goods and services, effectively tilting the demand and supply mechanism. In this regard, producers have to increase production to meet increasing demand.

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Moreover, advertisers fuse the western culture which portrays success and happiness with Consumerism, thus making it appeal to the masses. This attracts consumers to adapt to the consumer oriented western lifestyle. This creates markets for goods and services, and thus a vibrant economy. Thus while education, mass media and the internet aid a country’s development, consumerism is the primary ingredient for economic growth and development.

Consumerism has ushered a new dawn in economic growth and development, according to Andrew Lam’s book “The Perfume Dreams, Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora”. Evidently, access to education has increased in most of the Asian countries such as Vietnam, Pakistan and others. This is perceived as a step forward towards economic development. Along with education, is the emergence of a new generation of Asians who are fascinated by globalization rather than with the Continent’s history.

In Asia, globalization didn’t just happen by chance. As in many other parts of the world, the internet and the mass media have been instrumental in spreading the global culture. While the internet is a late entrant in global arena, the mass media is not. Media brands such as CNN, BBC and others have, like the internet, help many of the world communities’ access information easily, which effectively helps to propagate materialism and consumerism.

Economic growth and development can however be attributed to the spread of materialism and consumer culture. The media and the internet can be attributed for the spread of democratic ideals in many countries. However, these two create a communication platform, which has ushered in a new dawn in Asia: consumerism. In Vietnam, as well as in many communities around the world, the consumer culture is alienating the youths from their past.

However, such alienation is not in vain as today’s youth form the new consumer market for intangible goods and services such as information, entertainment and global brands such as Coca Cola. Fashion and sports are also products of mass consumerism, with the new generation exhibiting insatiable appetite for these products. Consumerism and not globalization is the new dawn and is the face of economic growth in many countries.

Proponents of consumerism have been accused of ignoring other fundamental aspects of economic growth such production. Dr Ashfaque Khan, in his article “Consumerism” argues that such criticism emanate from the assumption that consumer culture overrides the need to encourage production. Moreover, other vital sectors such as the employment industry, the utilization of a country raw materials and workforce are ignored. In sum, consumerism impinges on the production capacity of a country.

This view hold true to the extent that exports are impinged on by an insatiable appetite for goods intended for export. However, critics are ignorant of basic factors that determine the effectiveness of consumerism in economic growth. Mass consumption creates a higher demand for goods and services, effectively spurring producers to increase production.

Increase in demand for consumer goods affects the demand supply mechanism. Increased demand for goods and services increases the need to produce more goods and services to meet the demand gap. As such, increased demands for goods spurs a number of activities. Primarily, increased demand for goods and services leads to an increase in investment in primary modes of production. As such increased demand for consumer goods and services leads to spurred growth in the production sector of the economy.

Furthermore, consumerism impacts the economy in terms of Job creation. While consumerism is associated with multinational brands such as Toyota, Coca Cola among others, small scale entrepreneurs have slowly emerged to satisfy the needs of small scale consumers. In many of the local towns, small cafes, movie theaters, shops and vending outlets have found their place in the retail industry. These small scale retailers, other than creating jobs, provide producers with avenues to distribute fast moving products.

They also help to meet the changing shopping patterns of the middle income earners. Thus consumerism promotes higher economic growth rate by jobs and spurring entrepreneurship. Like globalization, consumerism does not just happen. Noreene Janus in her article “Cloning the Consumer Culture; How International Marketing Sells the Western Lifestyle” claims that for consumerism to spur economic growth, it needs to be cloned, developed ,spread, popularized and then presented to the world through the mass media.

This has not been easy though. It has taken consistent effort by multinationals to advertise and sell consumer culture. Suffice to state that even though the multinationals advertise and market their products through the mass media, this is not consumerism. Consumerism is the attitude created by such advertising that consumption brings happiness. Multinational companies associate consumption of their products with class, happiness, luxury and the attainment of a higher social status.

As such, the culture created through such adverts symbolizes general well being, success and achievement. Therefore, the desire to be prosperous drives people to consume international brands rather than local brands. The spread of consumerism is enabled by the fact that multinationals fuse the western lifestyle with consumer advertising. Most of the content in these adverts portray the western lifestyle as the ultimate enjoyment of life as a result of consuming multinational brands.

Therefore, people are attracted to adopt western lifestyle. As a result they shop for multinational brands such as Coca Cola as a way of enjoyment. As explained earlier this creates more demand for such goods which in turn spurs the growth of the production industry. Thus economic growth is realized. Multinationals advertise the western culture out of the realization that the western world realized economic growth because of a consumer culture.

Thus, their aim is to spread the culture across the borders, thus expanding market for their goods. The spread of consumerism is not only attained with the help of the mass media even though it plays pivotal roles. The emergence of global advertising firms has taken advertising to a whole new level. Such firms are not only helping repackage global brands but are also help to remodel and merge western culture with consumerism.

The result is that people are putting much faith in multinational brands more than other things such as religion. People have become consumers of multinational brands, not because of the benefits they derive from them but as a way of life. Architects of consumerism appeal to the masses that consumer goods and products provides solutions to their problems.

This is the reason commodities such as the iPhones, computers and such other new age technologies are popular since they help people overcome life challenges. Thus the users and the gadgets are inseparable. Steve Bruce, in his book, “God is Dead: Secularization in the West”, likens consumerism to a new religion. Actually Bruce argues that consumerism has become a new religion, replacing God. People worship commodities that give them tangible satisfaction.

A walk across town reveals that more and more people spend their Sundays in shopping malls rather than in church or other places of worship. This implies that money that would have been given to church is used to acquire consumer goods. This is driving the demand for consumer goods a notch higher and significantly spurring economic growth. Education is vital for economic growth since it equips people with knowledge to be economically productive.

The internet and mass media are crucial since they help people access information, a vital ingredient for economic growth. However, consumerism is the primary agent for economic growth. This is due to the fact that mass consumption creates mass markets for consumer goods, and significant demand for such goods, effective spurring economic activities such as increased production retailing, advertising marketing and other related activities. Consumerism is therefore vital for economic growth.

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