Culture-Ideology of Consumerism


London School of Economics and Political Science, UK

DOI: 10.1002/9781118989463.wbeccs089

While the idea of consumerism as an ideology has been familiar in the social sciences for several decades, the concept of the culture-ideology of consumerism as a key component in a theory of capitalist globalization is of relatively recent origin. It was initially proposed by Sklair in 1991 (see Sklair 2002) and refers to the transformation of excessively above-subsistence consumption from a sectional practice of the rich throughout human history to a globalizing phenomenon directed at the mass of the population in the era of capitalist globalization. Its emergence can be explained in terms of two historically unprecedented factors. First, capitalism entered a qualitatively new globalizing phase in the 1950s, facilitated by the electronic revolution. Substantial increases were made possible in the productivity of factories and systems of extraction and processing of raw materials, accompanied by vastly greater efficiencies in product design, marketing, financing, and the distribution of goods and services. These processes, driven by new types of globally integrated transnational corporations and organized politically by an embryonic transnational capitalist class, first took root in the United States but soon spread around the world. Second, new mass media and communications technologies made it very easy for new consumerist lifestyles to become ...

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