From Consumer Society to Experience One
There is no shortage of various theories of a greater or lesser validity that declare the end of the consumer society. Everything depends on the chosen perspective and your desire to announce the end of something.
For example, it can be said that the consumer society ended with the industrial ("Fordist") society. Now, the market is dominated not by goods but by services, we have entered a new post-industrial era where knowledge, innovation, creativity or what you like best is the main thing. In our opinion, such theories are more likely to be sensational than justified. Professional writers specializing in sociology will confirm this assumption and will be able to prove this in a persuasive essay if you need such a sample.
The economy has long become global with all the ensuing consequences. Of course, you can think that with our iPhone, we are primarily consuming an intellectual product, but sometimes the information about overwork in the factories comes to us from China where these same iPhones are assembled. It indicates that business is not limited to the inventions, patented in California, and the mass conveyor production, although gone out of the view of the inhabitants of developed countries, has not disappeared in the global perspective.
You can pick up some other reason for stating the end of the consumer society. For example, the consumer's refusal from commodity standardization in favor of customization, that is, changing the attitude from "a thing like all people have" to "to emphasize my individuality."
Within the framework of the concept of an experience society, it is generally a question of transforming the structure of a rational action, reorienting it from the "external" goals related to possession of some functional objects, to the "internal" ones, that is, associated with some form of emotional satisfaction. The growing popularity of the conservative romantic ecological attitude can also be interpreted as a symptom of the decline of the consumer society. Such arguments are often used to state the end, but there are always enough arguments in favor of the fact that it is ultimately a modification or a subtle form of sublimation of the former consumer attitude.
We often observe the situations when a certain process or phenomenon is considered to be over, but, in fact, it only takes a new form. And during the next years of its development, it suddenly begins to exhibit the features of the allegedly disappeared process, which, in fact, was simply transformed.
The Soviet Culture of Consumption
It would be wrong to say that the consumer society is a phenomenon of only the market capitalist societies. In the USSR, in the post-war period, its formation was also taking shape. One could even strengthen this thesis by saying that it was in the USSR that the normal model of the consumer society was presented in the purest form if one were to bear in mind the economy with an extremely standardized product line of mass consumer demand.
However, the scarce nature of the planned economy imposed its limitations here. The consumer keynote was actively formed by the Soviet mass culture. Therefore, the opinion that the consumer culture came from the West in the post-Soviet period is wrong. It is enough to revise some films of the 1940s and assess the degree of approving attitudes towards the consumer culture in the Soviet mass media.
But the Soviet culture was heterogeneous, and the struggle against the bourgeoisie and the bourgeois consumer culture, inherited from the radical heterogeneous intelligentsia, was also equally present here. It was rebuilt in the USSR in the form of criticism of the philistine, a huge layer of which can be found in the Soviet satirical magazines. Yet it is difficult to say whether this anti-petty-bourgeois rhetoric was a genuine continuation of anti-bourgeois radicalism or simply a form of compensation for the displeasure associated with the scarce economy.
Note that if you have touched this topic in your college paper, do not get carried away too much since this section may be much longer than you have expected. Mention it as a review part, but do not go into the details as they will suffice for a separate essay.
The End of Consumer Society?
Another important aspect related to our theme is already correlated with the mechanisms of producing the modern knowledge about society. The fact is that the classical social and economic theory simply does not pay attention to the entire segments of human life related to leisure.
Both Marx and Weber were primarily interested in production and work, and not leisure, within which the consumer culture exists. Therefore, this is still a big question, what it is actually about when we talk about the formation of the consumer society and the processes of its transformation: about a real process or about changing our analytical and research optics. However, even the radical constructivism of this assumption does not negate the fact that the very articulation of this culture influences it in the sense of reflexivity of our consumer strategies.
Summarizing, we would say that the consumer society is formed as a consequence of the emergence of the vast middle class that forms the rich and complex consumer culture. In prosperous countries, this culture is constantly undergoing a transformation, making it increasingly complex and diverse. In the end, consumer attitudes in the classical sense show a tendency to disappear here. The theorists of experience society pay attention to this.
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That is, within the consumer society itself, there are attitudes directed against the negative results of the irrational consumer culture. In this connection, it can be said that the popular criticism of the consumer society is utopian to the extent that it is a question of some artificial substitution of the consumer attitude for some other. However, in its development, the consumer society is able to cope with its own problems, capable of minimizing the negative results of the unlimited consumer culture.