Consumerism: Some Fundamental Insights

Consumerism: Some Fundamental Insights

Ioanna Papasolomou (University of Nicosia, Cyprus)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-7357-1.ch015
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This chapter reveals that the term ‘consumerism' encompasses a number of meanings which create confusion regarding the term. The discussion that follows, attempts to distinguish the different perspectives regarding the term by presenting its historical development and discussing the three definitions that have marked it. It explores the relationship between consumerism, marketing and corporate social responsibility (CSR). The growth of consumerism has led to the over-use of marketing which provided a flourishing ground for compulsive buying and consumption. There is evidence in the literature to suggest that in an era of increasing social problems and environmental challenges, there is a need for CSR and sustainable marketing. In fact, the second definition of consumerism is inextricably linked with CSR and societal marketing. The chapter is conceptual in nature and provides an in-depth review and discussion of some fundamental dimensions associated to consumerism based on the existent literature. The overarching aim is to provide an insight into the evolution and growth of consumerism based on the existent literature related to the topic. The discussion also focuses on exploring the relationship between marketing and consumerism shedding light onto compulsive buying, consumer attitudes and concerns on the micro consumerism issues, sustainable consumption and sustainable marketing. The chapter proceeds to raise some concerns related to the impact of the global economic crisis on consumerism by using as an example Cyprus based on the author's observations and thoughts. The chapter concludes with a list of suggestions to practitioners and directions for future research.
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Evolution And Fundamental Definitions Of Consumerism

“Consumerism” can be defined as a social and economic trend that stimulates the purchase of goods and services in ever-greater amounts. Early criticisms of consumerism are present in the works of Thorstein Veblen (1899). Veblen studied the newly emergent middle class emerging at the turn of the twentieth century and wrote a detailed social critique of conspicuous consumption. According to Veblen the upper social class at the time engaged in practices of conspicuous consumption and conspicuous leisure (Veblen1899). Consumerism is usually considered as a part of the media culture (Thoman, 1992; Jansson, 2002) that emerged and developed in the 20th century under the influence of mass media. The mass media, TV, the press, radio and cinema shaped public opinion as well as consumers’ values, tastes and preferences.

“Consumerism” has also been used to refer to something quite different called the consumerists movement, consumer protection or consumer activism, which seeks to protect and inform consumers by requiring such practices as honest packaging and advertising, product guarantees, and improved safety standards. In this sense it is a movement or a set of policies aimed at regulating the products, services, methods, and standards of manufacturers, sellers, and advertisers in the interests of the buyer.

The word ‘consumerism’ has acquired several meanings over time that add to confusion and disagreement regarding the term since many of them are not related to each other and conflict with each other. The literature reviewed revealed that consumerism can be defined in different ways based on different perspectives. Three definitions have marked the term and these are:

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