Consumerism is a trend in the contemporary world that consists of buying and / or accumulating goods and services above what is considered essential.


In the consumer society in which we find ourselves, it is common to ask the following question, what is consumerism? Consumerism is a practice whereby a person buys beyond what is essential. Added to this, although the consumer’s income level does not allow it, they will look for some type of financing.

It can be said that there are different types of consumerism and they are the product of an economic system that encourages purchase, with various mechanisms such as credit, and to which we must add the development of advertising by companies. However, while consumption is the action of using and / or spending a product, a good or a service to meet human needs, consumerism is the excess of consumption. In this way, we must emphasize the difference between consumption and consumerism to avoid confusion.

Origin of consumerism

As for the history of consumerism, it should be noted that it is a relatively recent concept. It dates back to the 20th century with the origin of capitalism, which creates the basis of the consumer society in which we find ourselves. With the appearance of a multitude of advertising spaces, digital marketing and improvements in telecommunications, the acquisition of goods and services by society is facilitated.

In addition to this, different payment facilities have been developed, there has been a reduction in prices due to globalization and the online market has been created, allowing the purchase of a certain good from anywhere on the planet.

Causes of consumerism

Among the main causes of consumerism we find:

  • Purchase on credit: It means acquiring the product today and paying for it in the future, usually having to pay a financial expense (interest) in addition to the price of the merchandise.
  • Advertising: It is a type of audio and / or visual marketing communication that uses sponsored and impersonal messages to promote or sell a product, brand or service. What advertising does is try to convince the public to make a purchase, even if it is not strictly necessary.
  • Product design (planned obsolescence): Many goods are manufactured with a very short life time. For example, it is recommended to use a toothbrush only for a few months. Similarly, this is notorious in the technology market, where new versions continue to come out, for example, of smartphones that offer the same functions, only with a higher quality. Either in the resolution of the photographs you take, in the speed of the Internet, or in the largest memory to store data, or another characteristic.
  • Social pressure : In certain social circles it can be said that pressure is exerted for the consumption of certain products. For example, a teenager who sees that all his friends have a video game console will ask his parents for that as a gift. Also, when a person is going to attend a very important event, they may be encouraged to buy a new garment.

Consequences of consumerism

Among the different effects and consequences that consumerism has, we highlight the following:

  • Generation of a greater number of waste compared to what is necessary.
  • Reduction of family savings rates generating an unequal distribution among the members of a society.
  • Economies with the largest number of industries will grow faster than the most deindustrialized ones.
  • Excessive use of natural resources.
  • Mental imbalances due to not being able to purchase certain goods and feeling inferior to other consumers.
  • Loss of characteristic features of different cultures.

Criticism of consumerism

There are critical voices of consumerism, assuring that it is the product of a system dominated by capitalism and that it puts the sustainability of the planet at risk.

For the products we consume, these critics say, a series of resources are needed that might not be renewable, and even if they are, the production process requires a waste of energy that generates pollution.

Therefore, consumers are becoming more and more aware and prefer to look for companies with sustainable or environmentally friendly practices. There is even a trend towards minimalism, which means having the bare minimum to live, although the purchasing power allows you to acquire more goods.

All this criticism runs counter to the objectives sometimes raised by public policies to encourage consumption, considering it as one of the engines of gross domestic product (GDP).

Examples of consumerism

As for the different situations in which consumerism occurs, we can find the following:

  • Mobile phones: It is common to find a large number of people who purchase a new terminal each year simply because it is the latest model.
  • Food: In the case of Spanish households, over a year about 3.25 tons of food are thrown away.
  • Clothing: It is one of the goods that generates the most consumerism. The frequent changes in fashion and season encourage the purchase of clothing, causing large numbers of consumers to make purchases above their needs.