What is consumerism?

Meaning of consumerism

Consumerism means buying in excess . The term is used to identify a person’s behavior or tendency to exaggerate spending habits or make impulsive purchases.

This behavior can be characterized by the development of compulsive behavior , in which the person consumes objects, services or food in an exaggerated way and without reflecting on the real need to make a purchase.

Therefore, when it comes to consumerism , it refers to investing in products that are not necessary , that is, superfluous items. Anyone who has this type of behavior is called a consumerist.

Causes of Consumerism

To understand the causes of consumerism , it is necessary to understand a little about the reasons that led to its emergence.

The growth in consumption habits occurs after the increase in industrial production , which occurs after the Industrial Revolution, when more investments were made in the production of services.

With investment in production, the amount of goods available to consumers has grown more and more. And to sell what was produced, it was necessary to stimulate the desire to buy in consumers.

As a consequence, consumption habits have been increasingly encouraged and growing.

Over time, the act of consuming was associated with positive ideas, such as happiness, the feeling of satisfaction or success.

Consumerism, Capitalism and Globalization

For these reasons, consumerism is considered one of the problems caused by the existence of the capitalist system , present in all contemporary societies.

Another factor that contributes to consumerism is globalization, as it makes different products easily found in all parts of the world.

Easy access to many products also helps stimulate unrestricted consumption.

In addition to the growth of industrial production and the expansion of the capitalist system, the advertising market is emerging.

Along with the media, which easily reach all people, it also influenced the increase in consumption .

Consumer Society

From the growth of consumption came the expression consumer society , which represents the relationship between consumerist behavior and capitalism.

In the consumer society, the production of goods and services is excessive in relation to the need and demand of consumers.

The Polish philosopher Zygmunt Bauman (1925-2017), who studied the subject, argued that modern society was basically made up of consuming people.

He understood that excessive consumption habits had a direct influence on the formation of the identity of individuals, which made it difficult to understand them as human beings and not as merchandise.

Consequences of Consumerism

Over time, increased consumption has changed people’s lifestyles .

Today, it is known that consumerism can lead to numerous consequences, such as indebtedness and the appearance of diseases such as anxiety and depression .

The presence of these features, for example, may indicate the existence of a disorder called oniomania . This pathology is characterized by obsessive behavior in relation to the act of buying.

In general, this disorder can more easily affect people who have a high degree of stress or anxiety . However, it does not mean that only anxious or depressed people develop the pathology , just as not all people with these characteristics will develop oniomania.

Consequences for the Environment

Consumerism also causes damage to the environment, such as the excess production of waste, in addition to the large amount of pollution generated by industries.

Currently, it is already known that excessive consumption is not a sustainable alternative and causes serious impacts on the environment.

E-waste is a more recent problem related to increased consumption. Nowadays, the consumption of electronic products is increasing and the durability of these products is not so extensive.

This occurs mainly due to planned obsolescence (shortening the useful life of a product to stimulate the consumption of new goods).

Difference between Consumerism and Consumption

Consumerism and consumption refer to the act of buying , but the terms have differences in their meanings. Consumerism is the tendency or habit to buy in excess , that is, beyond the needs or without a specific purpose.

As for consumption, it means the act of buying or acquiring a good or service, for example. However, unlike consumerism, it does not necessarily mean exaggerated behavior.


Lowsumerism, made up of the words low and consumerism , can be translated as “ little/low consumption ”. It is a movement that emerged more recently that seeks to get people to reflect on their consumption habits.

Low consumption not only proposes to reduce consumption, the most important thing is to make people aware of the role that consumption has in their lives.

Reflections proposed by the movement:

  • Questioning the real need to acquire a new good
  • Stimulate creativity to reuse products and objects
  • Practice more sustainable consumption habits
  • Reflect on the manufacturing policies of the companies of those who usually consume
  • Question the quality and quantity of the information consumed
  • Understand the environmental impacts generated by acts of consumption.

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