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The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Consumption and Consumer Studies by J. Michael Ryan, Daniel Thomas Cook

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Hyperconsumption

PIERGIORGIO DEGLI ESPOSTI

University of Bologna, Italy

DOI: 10.1002/9781118989463.wbeccs147

The term “hyperconsumption” is linked with the concept of a “new modernity,” which can be defined as a “civilization of desire” (Lipovetsky 2005). Its birth can be dated to the second half of the twentieth century. The features of this concept are clearly identifiable in a capitalist matrix, that is, the incessant creation of new needs, aggressive forms of marketing, and an empowerment of demand. This leads to a new age characterized by the emergence of consumer capitalism as replacement for an economy based on production. On the one hand, this process of change has brought significant benefits, such as increased possibilities for consumption, new concepts of space and time, and in general more opportunities for individuals to increase their social well-being. On the other hand, this new era is characterized by new pathologies, such as a bulimic approach to consumption, uncontrollable forms of entropy, and a constant search for satisfaction that seems elusive and out of reach.

An important reference for understanding the evolution of hyperconsumption is found in Thorstein Veblen's idea of conspicuous consumption (1899). He pointed out how the wealthy showed their superiority compared to other classes through a consumption based on ostentation and waste. At the same time, those who belonged to the lower classes were trying to emulate the same lifestyle and behavior as the ...

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