Consumption, Consumer Culture and Consumer Society

By Firat, Aytekin; Kutucuoglu, Kemal Y. et al. | Journal of Community Positive Practices, January 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

Consumption, Consumer Culture and Consumer Society

Firat, Aytekin, Kutucuoglu, Kemal Y., Saltik, Isil Arikan, Tunçel, Özgür, Journal of Community Positive Practices

Abstract. This paper mainly deals with the concepts and issues surrounding the contemporary notion of consumption. Consumption is a complex social phenomenon in which people consume goods or services for reasons beyond their basic use-value. Conspicuous Consumption, Symbolic Consumption, Addictive Consumption, Compulsive Consumption and Sacred Consumption are five main categories defining distinctive consumption styles. Basic characteristics of consumer culture can be summarized in the transforming of needs to desires, utilitarian/hedonic needs-values, commodity fetishism, conspicuous leisure and consumption, cultural values, aestheticization, alienation, differentiation and speed. A consumer society is one in which the entire society is organized around the consumption and display of commodities through which individuals gain prestige, identity, and standing. The paper explores the main factors fueling the engine of consumer society that has over the past few decades gained a global perspective.

Keywords: Consumption, Global Consumer Culture, Consumer Society, Consumerism

1. Introduction

The concept of consumer society has recently gained a global perspective. This study domain attracts researchers from several disciplines such as marketing research and sociology. Understanding the ingredients and drivers of global consumer culture is key to gaining insight regarding consumer behavior, societal dynamics and relevant organizational aspects and revealing what makes consumers respond invariably to the forces driving the engine of consumption. Therefore, the implicit interrelationship between the concepts of consumption, consumer culture and consumer society merits further investigation. In doing so this paper aims to contribute to the relevant literature in the area by adding to the body of existing knowledge. The discussion in this paper is analytic in the sense that factors are discussed not only in relation to the big picture of global consumer culture but also keeping in mind the likely liaison among the factors. Firstly, the paper looks at the concept of consumption with perspectives from different consumption styles. Having reviewed the consumer culture, the paper then delves into the dynamics of consumer society and consumerism.

2. The Concept of Consumption

In the most general sense, consumption means satisfying needs. As it is, the concept of needs must be defined. A need seems compulsory for existence because when a need is fulfilled it provides pleasure, and otherwise it gives pain (Dolu, 1993:21). Consumption has social and economic associations also connected to time and space, depending on demands such as needs, wants and desires; goods, services and money or some value substituting money that are necessary for fulfilling demands (Orçan, 2008: 23).

Williams indicates that the very old-dated meaning of consumption is to destroy, spend and waste (Featherstone, 1996). The non-self-sufficient human being has various physiological, psychological, social and cultural needs. All activities towards meeting any of these needs could be stated as consumption. Apart from this definition, it is also possible to use the concept of consumption for some other values that are spent even without a real need. Consequently, consumption could be defined as spending tangible and intangible values that are ventured to meet some demand, whether real or fake (Torlak, 2000: 17).

According to another view, consumption, which is formed by the purchasing decision of consumers, is a process that combines behaviors in order to utilize economic goods. In order to define the concept of consumption, the final aim of economic activities, Ritzer (2003: 12 - 19) follows Marx's description classifying consumption goods as subsistence and luxury. Ritzer claims that consumption tools enable people to obtain goods and services and also exploits people by keeping them under control. In simple terms, consumption means to have a good or a service, to own it, to use or to dispose it in order to satisfy particular needs. …

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