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

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Consumers, Failed

ISAAC I. MUÑOZ

University of Dallas, USA

DOI: 10.1002/9781118989463/wbeccs250

A consumer society is one in which participants adhere to the idea of consuming products and services rather than producing them. This type of contemporary society, with its unspoken but understood moral rules, expects its members to give in to the temptations of the marketplace. In fact, its members (consumers) are expected to participate regularly, as consumption offers a means of re-establishing normalcy, especially during economic downturns. This consumer-driven economic re-investment is what sociologist Zygmunt Bauman calls “consumer-led recovery.”

At the center of the consumer psyche lies one of the core tenets of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, self-improvement. Out of this ideology of self-improvement the paradox of choice emerges: in other words, fashion, which subsequently begets obsolescence. Understanding the difference between fashion and obsolescence in such a society necessitates an understanding of its passive participants, those flawed consumers, collateral casualties of consumerism, and underclass or failed consumers. Although these terms are often used interchangeably, measuring their distinctions yields more meaningful insights by which to evaluate these nonconsumers.

Mainstream consumers and corporations at large perpetuate a certain view of collateral damage that neglects an entire class of consumers, who are labeled the underclass; this group's place on societal maps ...

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