An easy way to look at consumerism is that marketers and advertisers have perfected tactics to get us to buy things, even if we don't need them. But American consumerism is also built on societal factors. We try to keep up with the Joneses, whoever they may be.
Sociologist Juliet Schor, an author of books on consumerism, wealth, and spending, thinks marketers have less to do with what we want than our neighbours, coworkers, or people we follow on social media.
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Black consumers are no different from white consumers. Although they spend on different things, there are not two types of consumers.
The dynamics of black consumers are partly driven by racism. Middle-class and upper-middle-class blacks will have to spend more on wardrobes to avoid being stigmatized in the retail environment.
Scholars answer this question in different ways. Economists assume that goods and services provide well-being and psychologists think it is part of human nature that ties back to evolutionary dynamics.
But the contemporary consumer society is more likely the result of the growth of unequal social structures. For a number of people, it's about consuming to their social position. For example, those with a richer reference group tend to save less and spend more, and those with a more modest reference group tend to save more even if their wealth increase.
Increases in equality can give rise to competitive consumption - the idea that we spend because we compare ourselves with our peers and what they're spending.
Our society is structured so that our social esteem or value is connected to our ability to spend. The inability to consume affects the kind of social value we have.
Consumerism declined during the Depression and the war, but in the 1950s, the model picked up again.
While men seem to dominate particularly big purchases, women are more responsible for everyday purchasing such as food and apparel.
Looking at data from marketers, you see a disproportionate amount of spending done by women.
According to French anthropologist Marcel Mauss, gift-giving carries many legal, moral, economical and spiritual aspects, and is significant for the whole social fabric. Many ancient cultures follow the intricate rules of gift exchange, which is not a voluntary act, but rather a comprehensive set of rules based on obligation and formality.
If a person does not take part in this obligatory ritual, he or she risks losing respect, moral authority and even wealth.
An externality affects someone without them agreeing to it. It can be positive or negative. Most externalities are small but can make a significant impact over time. Understanding the types of externalities and the consequences they have can help us improve our decision making.
One family member leaves their dirty dishes in the sink. They get the benefit of using the plate. Someone else bears the cost of washing it later.
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