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Is Consumer Society a Divided Society? Essay

A consumer society is a society where people often buy new goods that they do not need (buy goods that are not necessary) and in which places a high value on owning many things (a high value placed on consumption of those goods). This essay will outline how social division is created through consumption and the consequences of consuming. It will first outline what Zygmunt Bauman calls the seduced and the repressed and how people are divided in our society based on these terms. It will then show evidence to support these claims by looking at the study of retail parks by Peter Jackson. Finally this essay will outline the two big supermarket (two different market) powers, namely, the zero-sum power and the positive-sum power and give evidence to support this by outlining the big supermarkets such as Tesco being the main one and how these two powers being looked at by showing two sides of an argument. (use the evidence gathered on big chain supermarket Tesco in the UK to support these two oppositional concepts by looking at the both sides of the argument)

Not everyone is able to consume equally, firstly we will look at the seduced and the repressed. They are two divided (divisions in a) consumer society. According to a social scientist Zygmunt Bauman (1988), people in contemporary western society can be broadly divided into two groups. The seduced what Bauman calls, are the people who can afford to consume to a greater degree than others. An example of the seduced are the people who have a secure job with a really good income, them having to consume greater than others gives them a social membership with a positive identity. However the seduced not only include with (with not needed) people who have enough money to buy goods and services, but also the ones who are seen by the consumer society as valued members, both by other consumers and by those who have something to sell to a lucrative market.

They are the employed, older people with good pensions and savings, those who are able to achieve their aspiration such as talent, good looks, or a particular skill that is valued and financially rewarded within the society. So in Bauman term the seduced are also those who are in a position to be admitted to a membership in a society because in the eyes of others they are able to consume affectively. This also creates pressure to conform because not doing so could easily lead to a social exclusion and a devalued identity. (not using your own words, too much direct quoting)

Examples of the repressed are in Bauman terms, the repressed are the ones who are excluded from this consumer society or who are pushed to its margins. They are the unemployed, low paid, insecure or temporary working, recently arrived migrants or those often who are not in a position to participate to (in) the consumer society. Clearly this shows that income has a lot to do with these divisions and shows that whether a person belongs to one of the categories of the seduced or the repressed. (Hetherington, 2009, p. 25)

In evidence to Bauman’s argument is an example of Peter Jackson, a geographer who has carried out a study of retail parks in the mid 1990’s in north London to try to offer an explanation of why these sites were becoming popular, he and his team of researchers asked customers why do they like shopping in these type of sites, (new sentence?) what they found in their studies, are that customers who shop in malls is because not only do (do this not only because) these shopping malls provide a vast range of goods but also the positive view of them being safe, it is convenient for them and a modern place to go shopping with their families. As the streets were seen as a place of crime, disorder and unclean, the view of the street did not look as welcoming and safe like the shopping mall did. The risks seen in this are the social exclusion.

The ones who are poor and old may find themselves excluded because they have difficulty to shop there as they do not have access to a car to get to these sites because these sites are miles away or the money they can spend when they get there. Likewise the success of these sites has an effect on the other fewer sites that provide cheap consumer goods. Then these shops cannot compete with the large retail parks so they go out of business. By looking at his studies it shows (one sees) the effect of consumption and the division that is created (in a society through inclusion and exclusion).

We, as consumers, divide ourselves from the society, sometimes without even realizing it and what leads us to these divisions are the large supermarkets. Large Supermarkets play a big role in dividing the society we live in. There are two sides of an argument of how large supermarkets are (described?) in terms of power (what supermarkets do or can do with their power). They are (There are or There can be either a) the zero-sum power and (or) the positive-sum power. An example of zero-sum power is thinking of it as a game where there are only losers and winners or where one gains and the other loses.

What supermarkets have been doing is that they provide cheap goods for the consumers and a lot of choices therefore making the small businesses looked at (seen), as losers in zero-sum power term and the large supermarkets (seen) as winners due to the fact that most of the money has gone to them because we as the consumers are lead (led or attracted) there by the (the not needed) cheap goods and a lot of amount of choices they provide us (provide us with or provide for us). So the result are small Independent stores are been put out of business. But the pro-supermarkets lobby don’t (does not) see it as that, they see it as a positive-sum power where there are only winners and no losers the best way to describe this is where all parties benefit to some extent for instance by having a large supermarkets gives the consumer a lot of choices so don’t have to waste their time looking for what they need elsewhere and also they provide a lot of job opportunities for the local unemployed (Allen, 2009, p. 66)

Tesco being in the lead since 1995, it has slowly increased its market share to around one-third of all groceries shops in the UK. As for Sainsbury’s local or Tesco Express, small independent stores find it difficult to compete. Due to the dominance of the big supermarkets small independent stores are been (being) put out of business or to put it in a social science term: a zero-sum power is being used. The end result is the high street stripped of diversity and life as the big four limit the possible range and type of shops available. The Federation of small businesses points out that, since 2000, some 7000 local grocery stores have been lost, with independents closing at the rate of 2000 a year, whereas, over the same period, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons have doubled the number of stores that they operate (Federation of small businesses, 2006).

The anti-supermarkets campaigners they (they not needed) argue that this retail power to consume their (is what gives consumers a) little choice over where people (they) can shop, or only choice the shoppers have are Tesco or Asda, Sainsbury’s or Morrisons (Allen, 2009 p. 72) But big supermarkets see it as a positive-sum power they don’t (try to use full form i.e. do not) just offer a lot of job opportunities for the local unemployed but also work for places like Bangladesh. Since the mid 1990’s, the garment industry in Bangladesh has grown rapidly, with some 2.5 million people working in the thousands of factories. These factories represent a path out of poverty and according to Martin Wolf (2004), an economic journalist on the financial times (Financial Times), the last thing a country like this would want is for the big retailers to stop sourcing their labour from them. (Allen, 2009 p. 91)

This essay has outlined how division is created through consumption and looked at two sides of the argument. It first described the two division used by Bauman the repressed and the seduced then provided Peter Jackson’s study of the retail park as evidence. Then finally this essay outlined the powers of the supermarkets the zero-sum power and the positive sum power then in evidence showed two sides of an argument of how the big four supermarkets are looked at (use their power). So overall the way people consume and how big retailers influence consumers in terms of power divides our society. (a bit too short?)


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