The Rubinshteinic Critique on Consumerism
Updated: Aug 20, 2023
Consumerism is the belief that acquiring many goods and services is beneficial to the economy and to one's wellbeing. This is true to a degree, given that there are many jobs that require constant and repetitive consumption in order to make money. There are also many jobs that finance people by selling things that are not necessary for a life of satisfaction and happiness.
In other words, while the culture of consumerism is necessary for the sustainability of people who provide goods that are beyond necessity, it is not necessary for people to be in a constant state of unnecessary shopping "crusades."
Consumerist culture is therefore more beneficial to sellers than buyers, as without the activity of unnecessary shopping across trading centers worldwide, a lot of people would be fired from their jobs due to companies and corporations losing more money than they gain. In order to minimize losses, firing employees is unfortunately inevitable at times.
The question that follows is whether or not we, the consumers, are responsible for those who provide us with unnecessary goods and services.
The answer is, of course, no. We live in a world that is largely built on free-market economies, which leads to competition between various providers. As a result, it is not our responsibility to ensure the sustainability of businesses that sell unnecessary goods and services.
Consumerism has not blurred the distinction between wants and needs. Rather, it is conformity and herd mentality that lead to the false blurring of desire and necessity. There is now the notion that we "ought" to be "like everyone else," in the sense that we "need" to be accepted as normal within our social circles. This, in turn, leads to peer pressure to buy unnecessary things in order to fit in.
In addition, the way most of us use language is also a factor in the blurring of need and want. We often use words like "must" and "need" to convince ourselves and others that we need to do something or buy something in order to live a well-lived life. However, what constitutes a well-lived life is up to interpretation, and there are many different ways to live a fulfilling life. Managing an article empire won't necessarily be fulfilling to you, as it is to me.
This is also how clickbait works. By telling us in the headline of an article or video that we need or must consume it, content creators encourage more traffic to their products, which in turn increases the financial sustainability of said products.
Ultimately, it all comes down to how much money product providers can make by convincing you to purchase and consume their products. The use of necessity, even if false, is often a good way to make money, by giving you a reason to do so, even if that reason is deceptive in nature.
Make your brand embedded within society, and you can increase the chances of others consuming your unnecessary products. You don't need a McDonalds just because you're hungry, and you don't need CocaCola just because you're thirsty. No. You need to eat and to drink. Whatever else you may consume specifically, isn't the necessity when you have plenty of other options.
The ascetic knows this well.
Consumerism is therefore important for people whose jobs are to sell you things you don't need. By convincing you that you "need" or "must" have them, you increase at least for a bit, the duration of their positions in those jobs. That includes the duration of their own companies as well. This makes consumerist culture necessary for one category of people, but not for the customers, assuming that said products are indeed unnecessary for a well-lived life.
And can you live a well-lived life, having a nutrition that's both tasty and healthy? If you can, then many brands are unnecessary, despite their consumption, and their positive affect on our wellbeing.