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Consumer Society Essay

Paper type: Essay Pages: 7 (1587 words)

Views: 445

Write an essay that outlines the view that a consumer society is a divided society. In response to this statement, there needs to be consideration as to whether or not a consumer society, like the one we live in in the UK, is a divided one or not and if so then where these divisions are displayed. Therefore throughout this essay, I’m going to explore some potential divides within society, specifically looking at division between the rich and poor, able-bodied and less able, and lastly the division created between those who have power to influence where we shop and those that do not have as much power, drawing on the example of supermarkets vs.

small shop keepers on the high street influencing the consumer public. I will be using ideas from social scientists such as Bauman and Susman to further illustrate my points. As I examine evidence on potential divisions I hope to conclude that the consumer society, in which we live in, is moreover a divided one.

Good, well done a cracking introduction here Gwen. This is just fine. Firstly, it could be argued that a division can be seen in a consumer society between the rich and poor. Because we live in a society where you are judged by what you consume, if you do not have much money to consume in the first place then it’s easy to see how someone who is poor may feel lesser or on the outskirts. What we ‘are in to’ and therefore what we consume not only gives us our identity and personality in the contemporary UK (Susman, cited in Hetherington, 2009, p 42), but also gives us our value within society. Kevin Hetherington in chapter one of the material lives strand, shows us a graph that displays what the average weekly household expenditure on main commodities and services in 2007 (Hetherington, 2009, p 24).*1* Transport is seen to be the top weekly expense, as it’s an essential.

People might need to travel to work in order to make money for a consumer lifestyle; however the second highest expenditure was, surprisingly, recreation and culture. This category was higher than food and non-alcoholic drink. Hetherington describes this piece of evidence as ‘noteworthy’ presumably because it highlights how our society has become a consumeristic. We spend more money on things we ‘are in to’ than groceries in a week. If you are poorer than the average person in the UK, then it would be very difficult to fit into a society that revolves around consuming when you cannot. *2* Zygmunt Bauman depicts this division between poor and rich in his concept of the seduced and the repressed (Bauman, cited in Hetherington, 2009, p25+26). According to him, people that live in contemporary western society can be roughly put into two categories.

The seduced being those who are able to ‘consume effectively’; they are employed, or young and good looking or have a particular skill that is valued financially within society. The repressed might be those that are old without a good pension, or the homeless. These people are repressed as they, more often than not, do not have the means to consume effectively and are therefore valued less in society. This causes a division as they are likely to not feel accepted by the majority who are able to consume. *1* Good content but try to be briefer, no need at all to refer to the module: “Hetherington displays a graph showing average household expenditure in 2007 (Hetherington, 2009, p 24)”.* *2* Here is where you could helpfully split this paragraph, the first section could have your main point emphasised again and then this would make a good paragraph on its own.

People with disabilities might also be seen to fit into the repressed category Bauman speaks of, as they are not always able to go shopping for themselves and a lot of their money arguably goes on facilitating a life in which it is hard to get around. Furthermore, people who are mentally disabled might not have the capacity to know what sorts of things to consume in order for them to fit in with the latest fashion or with the people they’d like to be friends with. Additionally, people that are physically disabled might not only feel excluded by not having the means to consume effectively and therefore fit in with others, but may also be physically excluded as most shopping malls or places of social activity do not cater for someone who is physically impaired. Most shopping malls in particular have escalators, or stairs, or walkways without railings which means those who are disabled are not able to go into these places.

This creates a divide between those who are able and those who are less able and can be seen to convey, whether it’s fair or not, that in society, there are winners and losers, people who lose out and people who are winning in the capitalistic race. Excellent content, I appreciate this is your own approach but it is relevant. However, if you find a suitable brief quote from the course it would be better evidenced, you can always do this appropriately but paragraphs without references just show you are not using course material and drop your marks down. This depiction of winners and losers within society is further seen in the tension between supermarkets and small shop keepers on the high street, which can also be described as those that have the power to influence where we shop and those that do not have as much power. This tension is evidently seen in the local market statistics and the falling number of independently owned shops, as well as factory surveys and local case studies that highlight poverty and hardship (Allen, 2009, p93).

Farmer’s markets and independently owned shops on the high street were once the most popular places to shop and were seen by some to contribute to the feeling of community in towns and small cities. *2* However in contemporary consumer society the majority of people are shopping a lot more at big supermarkets and chain stores, resulting in smaller shop keepers going out of business. Consumers may argue here that in supermarkets there’s a lot on offer and for a cheap price. Furthermore, supermarkets sell a huge range of different products, ranging from food to furniture to DVDs (‘Evidence in the social sciences’, 2009, track 1). People these days want all the trappings that come with a consumer lifestyle, and at supermarkets they can get these things for cheaper prices compared with independently owned stores, which appeals to the masses. *3* It is obvious to see how independent store owners and market stall owners may feel some animosity towards supermarkets, causing a power-play division.

Excellent content and referencing from various sources, well done *3* You have too much of your own opinion in the next to last sentence here, also you need to mention Dennis Wrong’s theory of zero-sum and positive sum games ( Allen, 2009, p. 70). On the other hand however, supermarkets may argue that their shops contribute to regeneration on the high street as people who might not live in the area are drawn to it because of these mega stores and therefore more people are drawn to high street shops. Furthermore, national market statistics could also be seen as favourable to supermarkets. *4* People are drawn into buying more through these big chain stores therefore the economy is not going downhill. Although, the question arises: to what expense? *5* Supermarket owners say that the exploitation of people working in sweatshops still benefits the workers, as factory visits and local wage level comparisons suggest improved living standards (Allen, 2009, p93).

However one might argue that this is true yet the workers are not in a position to protest as, if they do, the supermarkets will always find other people who are desperate to earn money, in that same country or another, who will work for them. *2* This might create a divide in consumer society between those who want to carry on consuming without worrying who’s expense it might be at or if the environment is suffering because of it, and those who care about the exploitation of people from third world countries and how the exportation of goods from countries that are far away increases our carbon footprint. *4* We may be a consumer society, but more and more people are becoming aware and active in world-wide issues like poverty and global warming. This creates a divide between those that are environmentally aware and retailers/ shop owners that have workers in third world countries and are exploiting them. Again, excellent content

*4* needs referencing more, quantitative evidence can be shown by the inclusion of a few relevant figures with a reference rather than a word discussion *5* do not include extra questions here, just answer the one set In conclusion, it plausible to say our society is seen to be divided in many different ways. The points I have explored, not only show the many divisions that come up in a consumer society, but also propose the question: is a consumer society a sustainable one? Furthermore, is all that we consume globally sustainable? It is possible that our rate of consumption will one day come to a halt. Additionally, one might argue that the many divisions that are created not just between the general public but between shop-owners show that there are cracks beginning to form in our society.

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