Explore the Claim That Consumer Society Is Always a ‘Throw-Away’ Society.

Explore the claim that consumer society is always a ‘throw-away’ society.

This essay aims to address the claim that consumer society is always a ‘throw-away’ society by firstly defining what a consumer society is, who are considered members of it and their reasons for consuming. Following this it will give examples of the types of things that are consumed and thrown away, the reasons and methods used for doing so and the affect that this has on the environment, before finally examining the claim.

Whilst there has always been a need to consume in order to provide for our basic needs such as food and clothing, recently consumption has moved away from being thought of as a necessity and towards defining a person’s lifestyle. In the past, society was divided by means of a class structure in which only the wealthy such as land owners or professional people were able to consume in order to be identified as a member of particular status. However during the 20th century the ability to do so became more widely available allowing more people to define who they were, not so much by what they did for a living as what they consumed. This is referred to as a consumer society.

This change in society can be attributed to a rise in affluence, a greater proportion of people having more disposable income due to better jobs and access to credit, enabling them to consume for reasons other than necessity. The causes for doing so vary from wanting to be included as part of a particular social group, aspirations of a particular lifestyle they wish to lead, a desire to convey their individuality or even due to environmental or political issues. As with the wealthier members of society in the past, people are more likely to engage in conspicuous consumption in order to create an impression on others regarding the way they choose to live, for example by the way they dress or the type of car they drive, or house they live in. Thorstein Veblen discusses this in his book ‘The Theory...