Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfactions, our ego satisfactions, in consumption. The measure of social status, of social acceptance, of prestige, is now to be found in our consumptive patterns. The very meaning and significance of our lives today expressed in consumptive terms. The greater the pressures upon the individual to conform to safe and accepted social standards, the more does he tend to express his aspirations and his individuality in terms of what he wears, drives, eats- his home, his car, his pattern of food serving, his hobbies.

These commodities and services must be offered to the consumer with a special urgency. We require not only “forced draft” consumption, but “expensive” consumption as well. We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced, and discarded at an ever increasing pace. We need to have people eat, drink, dress, ride, live, with ever more complicated and, therefore, constantly more expensive consumption. The home power tools and the whole “do-it-yourself” movement are excellent examples of “expensive” consumption.

The now famous words of Victor Lebow, an economist and retail analyst, first describing in 1955 the emergence of a society of people who want to broadcast their status and beliefs through purchased products.

I don’t know about you, but as soon as I see a behaviour of mine characterised in words by a professional researcher of such behaviours, I kind of feel guilty that my behaviour is so textbook and predictable (although I really shouldn’t, because these are behaviours that are common to huge swathes of the human species). It happened multiple times in my undergrad degree when lecturers in my psychology courses described various cognitive biases or social norms, e.g. the bystander effect, in which a person does not go to the aid of another person in need because they kind of assume that someone else will do it, thereby diffusing the sense of responsibility. But even if something is a common, well documented human behaviour, that doesn’t necessarily mean we should keep on blithely doing it without stopping to think. I’m trying to make myself do a bit of that sort of stopping and thinking with this blog.

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