I will start with the Marx’s expression that our life goal should be “to be much not to have much”? But can that hold truth? Does being means having?
First of all, I would try to highlight what can be the reasons why people always consume and over consume? There are some parts of necessary consumption, such as the food, clothes, medicine services and educations, the ability to consume those commodities are necessary for every person to ensure safety for the human, as is described in the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs model. But why then people still go beyond and over consume?
Secondly, as is explained in the Darek Gordon’s article another reason why people consume is to show their social status; for example people tend to choose other partners for life with higher social status, again a as reason for providing security to families. Moreover, the higher social status, which can be shown through acquisition of different expensive commodities, provides the owner of that commodities with security that he or she is competitive and “demanded”. For example when a person gets higher and higher by the social ladder the needs of that person comparatively rise as he climbs up by the ladder, if earlier that person was satisfied with let’s say owning a brand new car, now he will star buying yachts and etc. In other words it is conspicuous consumption. As well the author of article mentioned that consumption is inter-related to competition, because consumption creates some special sorts of communities, in the other words memberships, you belong to. Those having yachts for example “us” and others who do not “them”. All of those aspects, the author postponed as being derived from past, where we always had to compete for survival, and care only about native ground and securities of those near us.
But nowadays, when the whole thinking changed and new technologies arrived, why do people still do not care that somewhere on the other world’s corner there are such problems as medicine , water and food limitations. Nowadays, people tend to choose friends and partners based on common ideas, sense of humor, personalities, perception of life, but the consumption patterns still lead to the old ages, and those can only be changed if the values will. However, despite all of those good wills in changing people’s minds, the consumption in 21 century only continues to grow rapidly, what is more, there are some researches stating that people after the invention of online shopping and payments card tend to consume even more, because feel less “hurt” spending 50 dollars from credit rather than cash. Again people tend to consume more when can pay for the product later than the product was bought, what leads to the conclusion that different pricing tricks raise consumption as well.
Thirdly, as discussed before, main reason of people’s consumption is to secure themselves in any possible ways, because consumption helps people to have things, whereas are people what they have? Should people be having or should people enjoy being? Do really the fact that we are presenting ourselves by having things secure us or maybe it is absolute vice versa? If a person is in a being mode without commodities then nobody can change that, while having mode is insecure because commodities can be lost, become unavailable or can be taken away. If someone is what he has, then the thinking about what I am without what I have increase insecurity even more. But if the people would concentrate on being mode, rather than having mode and share between each other values, such as ideas, culture, pieces of arts and etc. they would be in a more secure position. Hovewer having mode seems the most common and natural for the people and this is how the over consumption is created. (Erich Fromm 1976)
As it can be seen from the table below, the consumption level is growing rapidly with the development of new technologies and online services, one of the reasons, is that consumption provides pleasure to consumers in satisfying consumer’s (media and advertisement created) needs. But does really over consumption is created via media and advertisement or economy plays a big role here as well? Nowadays, people tend to sell their free time for employers for work, and depending on their consumption needs they will work that much hours, in the end employees feel deserving to buy staff and that consumption process works as a form of reward for working, so the problem lies as well within the fact that wages are a main motivation to work. (Dr. Juliet B. Schor)
Finally, taking into account mentioned facts above; those as consumption because of social competition, consumption as a path to secure well-being, consumption as an economical state of “work and spend” does a person still retains whom he or she is, or does a personal identity and individualism is totally lost? Individualism is being described as a state when person is different from others because is having different needs and wants, but are not we becoming too similar because our main need is the same to others- to consume more? But then, we still consume different, but in a way similar things, and the supply of goods and services is such a big nowadays that allows every individual to consume pretty different things, which was impossible in the oldest times. So does the higher consumption nowadays helps to distinguish between each other and increase individualism or does it force us to pursue having mode and forget about cultural values, belongings, friendships and family?
1. Darek Gondor, 2009, United Nations University “Why do we over consume?” Retrieved from: https://ourworld.unu.edu/en/why-do-we-over-consume
2. Fromm, E., 2013. To have or to be?. A&C Black.
3. Mark Sagoff, 2000, Environmental Challenges to Business, “Do we consume too much?” Retrieved from: https://www.pdcnet.org//pdc/bvdb.nsf/purchase?openform&fp=ruffinx&id=ruffinx_2000_0002_0053_0074&onlyautologin=true
4. James Scherer, 2016,”The Ultimate Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization: Chapter 7: The Psychology of Consumption” Retrieved from: http://blog.wishpond.com/post/115675436070/conversion-rate-optimization-chapter-7
5. Dr. Juliet B. Schor, 2001, “Why do we consume so much?” Retrieved from: https://www.csbsju.edu/Documents/Clemens%20Lecture/lecture/Book01.pdf