Classical Sociological Accounts of Consumerism Term Paper

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Until that time, the lower classes, as they were known, would produce most of what they needed at their own homes, and the upper classes would simply employ the lower classes to produce whatever goods they needed and subsequently purchase them, or employ craftsmen to produce 'quality' goods that were usually required by noblemen. (Elemental Economics: Intermediate Microeconomics)

There were also firms that would purchase goods and services and these would be the 'inputs' in the production process of the final products and services. Those goods or services that are purchased by such firms are generally known as either 'intermediate' or as 'producer' goods, and style and taste hardly have any significance here; rather, it is either the price or the technical quality of the good that becomes more important than anything else. (Elemental Economics: Intermediate Microeconomics) in a nutshell, a consumer good can be explained as something that is intended for consumption, and this can be clothing, food, consumer durables, and accessories, and so on that keep in touch with the latest trends, and so on. (Consumer Goods: ( the basic meaning and purpose of these goods is that of satisfying the human need or want that has made he person purchase it for his use. (Consumer Goods:

Why do certain people desire to purchase certain things, and what does Veblen's theory state about this phenomenon? It has been proved that the average American consumes 269 pounds of meat, 605 pounds of paper, and about the same energy equivalent to 8 metric tons of oil, every year. Every two people in the U.S.A. own one car, while in Europe; every 3.5 people own one car. In developing countries, on the other hand, there is one car for every 68 people, on an average. Why is there this type of difference in consumption, and why must people purchase certain things and not certain others? Basically, consumption is the process by which the goods and the services that have been purchased by them are put to the specific use they were meant for. The process of consumption starts at the beginning, with the evaluation of the resources available, then on to the production of the goods, and then the distribution, after which the people acquire them by purchasing them. It is after this that the goods or services that have been bought would be used or consumed. The consumption has the effect of depletion of resources, and the generation of waste, and also the betterment of human civilization, and how they flourish. (Consumption and the Consumer Society)

Most economists believe that anything that human's value about the functioning of the economy was to be found in the final demand for the goods and services that have been produced. Therefore, consumer satisfaction may be the ultimate goal of a producer, and this type of economy ruled by the desires and demands of the consumer is known as 'consumer sovereignty', and this is how consumers prove themselves to be useful to the economy. Anyway, consumers keep the economy functioning at its best by the process of generating demand for goods as well as services, and it is basic reasoning that without this demand, the supply would come to a complete standstill. In other words, how long can producers keep on producing their various goods if nobody wants the goods? Therefore, it must be said that consumers are more often interested in such goals as self-realization, fulfillment of their desires, freedom, a sense of fairness, social relations and so on, and they would be able to achieve these goals by playing out their roles as consumers.

'sovereign consumer' is someone who generally makes his own informed decisions, and if, for example, these decisions were to be influenced to a large extent by the norms and the rules of society, as it would inevitably be, then it can be said that consumer behavior has been cultivated as a means to an end, rather than as an end to the means. There are a few theories on why consumers do what they do. Some of the reasons, according to experts are: physiological needs like, for example, hunger, thirst, and so on, secondly, safety needs, like for example, protection from something, then there are social needs like the need for love or for a sense of belonging, then there are esteem needs, like for example, a showing off of a new found status by the purchase of a status symbol, and finally, certain self-actualization needs, like those of self-esteem, and self-respect. The consumer would have to recognize the various needs within himself if he were to contribute to the ultimate decision making process. (Consumption and the Consumer Society)

Veblen's Theory on sociology and about why certain consumers desire certain goods was explained in his concept of 'new economics' wherein it could be termed as being evolutionary or as being historical, and his theories were for the most part based on the conception that man is an 'activistic animal'. He thought that the very characteristic exhibited by man that he must do something, and that he is not just a mere bundle of desires that would ultimately reach a point of saturation, but he is a coherent structure of habits that seek their final realization in the unfolding of any activity whatsoever. Therefore, according to Thornstein Veblen, the economic life history of a person, or rather, a consumer is in fact a cumulative process by which the means are adapted to the ends and not vice versa. He also stated that a man's very position in the economic as well as in the technological spheres of life would determine his attitudes and his very outlook on life, and in a similar manner, the habits and the innate thinking processes of an individual grow within the communities in which they live, where they are generally engaged in the process of making a living, and it is these very habits and thinking processes that seem to crystallize over a period of time into the institutional molds into which communities attempt to press all their component members. (SOC4044 Sociological Theory: Thorstein Bunde Veblen)

Men, in their continuous and permanent struggle for competitive advantage over others, according to Veblen, tend to indulge in either conspicuous consumption, or in conspicuous leisure, or in the conspicuous display of the various symbols of high standing. In addition, he believed in the idea that the habits of the mind are not usually stored in the mind in a random or in a haphazard manner, but are rather more in keeping with the consistencies of the overall ability of the human mind to adapt to certain mental thoughts and abilities, and ultimately, they come to be organized as ordinary and typical activities. Therefore, the habits of a certain peoples' mind forms the basis of the cultural norms of the world, and this governs what they buy and why they buy them. (SOC4044 Sociological Theory: Thorstein Bunde Veblen)

What are the various motivations for consuming? Why is consumer behavior so very important, and why are the factors that motivate the consumer to be analyzed in such great detail? What determines consumer behavior, and why? In general, human behavior at all times strives towards attaining a more desired and wanted state of affairs, and all consumers strive endlessly towards the attainment of these goals. Rational consumers generally demand certain commodities when they feel that there are casual connections between the various characteristics of these goods or services, and the proportionate increase in their innate well-being. Secondly, since they well understand the idea that these goods would increase their welfare, they will always keep in mind the value of the product. Therefore, the motivations behind the purchasing of a consumer may not be anything in particular. They may be either selfish or altruistic or even malevolent, and all within the same framework.

When a consumer is asked to rate a certain number of products or goods, he would generally do so from a point-of-view of the amount of utility or use he gains from them; he may rank them according to the most preferred to the least preferred, and one example of this can be seen in the way that when a consumer is in fact thirsty, and he has a good quantity of water, he will naturally try to satisfy his most urgent need, that of thirst, first, and only then will he think of other things. The other things in this case may be that he may want to use the water for bathing and then washing, and then for irrigation, and he will satisfy all the needs in the order that he wants to, in the ordered priority that he is accustomed to. When the consumer of water finds that as he drinks more and more water, he does not really enjoy drinking it, and he has by now progressed to washing his clothes in…

Sources Used in Documents:


Bolender, Ronald Keith. SOC4044 Sociological Theory: Thorstein Bunde Veblen. 2002. Retrieved at on 18 March, 2005

Chapter four, Conspicuous Consumption. Retrieved at Accessed on 17 March, 2005

Consumer Goods. Retrieved at on 18 March, 2005

Consumer Goods. Retrieved at Accessed on 18 March, 2005

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