Consumerism and Hyperconsumerism in the Romanian Society

By Druica, Elena; Cornescu, Viorel et al. | Global Business and Management Research: An International Journal, October 2010 | Go to article overview

Consumerism and Hyperconsumerism in the Romanian Society


Druica, Elena, Cornescu, Viorel, Ianole, Rodica, Global Business and Management Research: An International Journal


Introduction

A long period of time consumption has been ignored and excluded as a subject of study or interest: "the history of consumption has no history, no community of scholars, no tradition of scholarship" (McCracken, 1987, p. 139), but nowadays no serious theory of contemporary society can ignore the importance of consumption (Ritzer, Goodman & Wiedenhoft, 2003). This recognition is based on the fact that postmodern consumption processes, cultures, and consumers are qualitatively different from those of the past: "the simpler, rational" consumer of the past was replaced by a more complex consumer" (Firat, Dholakia & Venkatesh 1995, p. 44). As Ariely's research on irrationality shows it (Ariely, 2008), our expectations, emotions, social norms, and other invisible, seemingly illogical forces skew our reasoning abilities in most areas, with eloquent reflections in our consumption practices.

The foundation of our exploratory study firstly retrieve its origins in the work of classical economists (Veblen, 1899, Duessenberry, 1949, Galbraith, 1958, Scitovsky, 1976) and sociologists (Baudrillard, 1970, Bourdieu, 1984) who have established an initial framework for consumerism and consumer society.

More than a hundred years ago, Thorstein Veblen, proposed that the rich category of Americans was spending a substantial part of their time and incomes on unnecessary and unproductive leisure expenditures and coined the term conspicuous consumption to describe the behavior. Both the term and behavior survived the century, reviving more recent voices (Durning, 1991, Frank, 1998, Schor, 1999) to comment on the new consumerism. While consumption among America's wealthy classes continues to rise, Japanese (Daniels, 1999) and Western European (Stearns, 2006) consumption patterns have come to parallel those of the United States. Even poorer societies such as China, India (Chaudhury, 2006) and Eastern European countries (Stearns, 2006) are beginning to adopt the consumer lifestyle of the West. This observation leads us to one of the motivational pillar of the paper, which wishes to depict some of the consumerist practices well grafted into the Romanian society. The presence of totalitarian regimes, the young and feeble market economy or the national mentalities are only some of the differentiating factors we have in mind when comparing the way consumerism conquered the two categories of countries.

Following a sequential approach, from the global trends to the national particularities, the main objective of the paper is to envisage the development of the nowadays hyper consumption society in Romania, outlining both qualitative features and a quantitative linkage between the savings ratio and the explosion of consumption credits. Even if the credit frenzy diminished in the last years, The Financial Newspaper announced in 2008 that Romania is the country of consumption credits, with more 76% of the existing debts entering into this category. In addition, a UniCredit study informs us that, with a level of almost 15% of the GDP, the market for consumption credits contracted by Romanians surpasses the value of similar markets from more developed countries in the region like Turkey, Czech Republic or Poland, outrunning the average of the area.

In a very expressive manner, the quote below synthesizes some of our personal questions sustaining the motivation of the present paper: "To what extent, if any, is our current consumption good for us? Bad for us? Would some other level or kind of consumption be better? What evaluative criteria should we employ to assess the impact on our lives of our present consumption and to evaluate alternatives?" (Crocker, 1994, p.3)

A complete answer to these questions can be found only, still with a low probability, through an interdisciplinary integration of economic, sociologic, psychological, philosophical environmental and neuroscientific research. …

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