Tuesday, 28 October 2014

CONSUMERISM   : Is it a bane or a Boon

When you look up for the meaning of Consumerism, there are different definitions and meanings  related to the word, and often confusing also. Some are as under:
1. The belief that is good for people to spend a lot of money on goods and services.
2.    The action of people who spend a lot of money on goods and services.
3.    It is a concept that consumers should be informed decision makers in the market place.(Consumer Protection)
4.    It is the selfish and frivolous collecting of products or economic materialism.

In general, we can say that , Consumerism is a social and economic order that encourages the purchase of goods and services in ever-greater amounts.

Consumerism in India has started , when our Govt. has opened markets, in the name of liberalization of Economy. Due to the economic policies and rapid Industrialization , the availability of consumer goods, have dramatically increased. Added to that , the advent of Department stores, and later , the super malls in bigger and now even in smaller towns also, has represented a paradigm shift in  the experience of shopping. Consumers could buy an astonishing variety of goods, all in one place, and shopping became a popular family leisure activity.

The success of a consumer society  is measured with the rate of   production , purchase and consumption .The society is considered to be progressing if all above elements are present there . The single most important measure of economic growth is the gross national product (GNP), ie. the sum total of goods.
Businesses have realized that wealthy consumers are the most attractive targets of marketing. The upper class's tastes, lifestyles, and preferences trickle down to become the standard for all consumers. The not so wealthy consumers can “purchase something new that will speak of their place in the tradition of affluence”. A consumer can have the instant gratification of purchasing an expensive item to improve social status.

Emulation is also a core component of 21st century consumerism. As a general trend, regular consumers seek to emulate those who are above them in the social hierarchy. The poor strive to imitate the wealthy and the wealthy imitate celebrities and other icons. The celebrity endorsement of products can be seen as evidence of the desire of modern consumers to purchase products partly or solely to emulate people of higher social status. This purchasing behavior may co-exist in the mind of a consumer with an image of oneself as being an individualist.

Beginning in the 1990s, the most frequent reason given for attending college had changed to - making a lot of money,  outranking reasons such as becoming an authority in a field or helping others in difficulty, serving the society at large, etc., This correlates with the rise of materialism,
A report submitted to the inquiry by the National Consumer Council found that children in deprived areas were more obsessed with money and shopping than youngsters from better-off homes. Poorer children  wanted a job with a high salary compared with children from affluent areas and they were  the main victims of con-sumerism, as per the report  conducted by the charity “The Children’s Society”

Our consumption patterns are so much a part of our lives that to change them would require a massive cultural overhaul,  In consumer society of the day now, people replace their goods with newer ones, use them and throw them away. The question of repair does not arise. People have money to purchase goods in plenty. In case, they do not do so , it leads to recession massive unemployment. 

I am not denying the many advantages of Consumerism. But , its  greatest negative and disastrous affect is,  on the middle class and the poorer sections of the society. The flood of products in the market has confused the poor consumer, in deciding, what he truly, really need and what is not. Consumerism has sown the seeds of greed in the minds of people. It has increased the greed in the consumer to want more and more, whether he , really want it or use it or not. Greed leads or drives people into earning more and more, even adopting by illegal methods , to satisfy never ending hunger for new and new consumer products. Generally , we work hard, to earn sufficient money and live a decent living. That does not mean, purchasing  whatever is offing in the market shelf.

The positive effects of consumerism, such as—higher growth of the economy, more better goods and services, increased employment opportunities, more comforts and better living styles for those who can afford etc., are being overshadowed by the massive negative effects like:
1.People are in constant competition to earn more and more , which leads to       stress and other work related health problems,
2.The barometer for society to be judged  as developed has become Material    wealth, instead of moral, spiritual and ethical values.
3.Increase in crime rates, for want of immediately/quickly becoming rich and  indulge in luxurious lives.
4.Personal relationships taking a back seat or non-priority in life, as more and more people spend most of the time at work place and businesses. Ultimately the entire Family structure gets disturbed and in the long run our societal fabric gets shattered.
5.Another biggest victim of the consumerism is –environment. Because of excessive use of natural resources,  our natural habitats are depleting at an enormous rates, and leading to Global warming.

Now, the question arises, in our minds – what has to be done  to control or lessen this madness called consumerism.
At individual level:
Ø  We can reduce our consumption , to our needs and take a pledge to purchase items with utmost care and awareness. And the key for that is –Ask yourself one question before purchasing a consumer item, whether it is essential for our living and day to day life. And postpone the purchase for a week and observe  , whether you still desire / want or need , with the same intensity.
Ø  Avoid taking loans for purchase of consumer goods, simply because , finance is available at ease. (if institute and private finance is not available for purchase of consumer items, this problem of consumerism, might not have arisen at all. It’s a vicious cycle, first, Corporate’s  flood market with consumer items, and then influences financial institutions to lend these at low interest rates)
Ø  At corporate level, they should see a large picture, how they are effecting the society and  - Profits , should not be their sole criteria or aim.
(This a small attempt to understand consumerism and its effect on our society, as it is affecting each one of us, knowingly or unknowingly. Compiled from various sources from internet and  inputs from self)

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