Consumerism is the term used to describe the effects of equating personal happiness with purchasing material possessions and consumption. Today we live in a consumer culture obsessed world. Consumption encompasses our everyday lives and structures our everyday agendas. The values, meanings and costs of what we consume have become an increasing important part of our social and personal experiences. The main factor enforcing our actions in this way is the news media. The news media is filled with information about consumption- not only in the form of advertising but also as news about businesses, lifestyles and economic indicators. However none of this tells us how we came about as a culture that associates freedom with the freedom of consuming anything of our choice and as a means of self-fulfilment.
Almost all cultures have found meaning in material goods. Objects resemble a social status or go further than that and have an emotional attachment with one`s self. Goods are not only consumed for their material characteristics, but even more for what they symbolize- there meanings, associations and their involvement in our self-image.
It is certain that never before in history has consumption become one of the central values of a culture. In modern society one learns merely to consume, and tasteful or appropriate consumption is only one of the numerous choices. It is this focus on consumption as a central worth that makes us a consumer culture. Consumption no longer seems to reflect our cultural values; it has itself become a cultural value. It has entered into the warp and turmoil of this fabric we call modern life. Every public space, every occasion for public gathering, every creative expression is seen as an opportunity to encourage more consumption.
Fashion is one of the key elements that fuel consumerism. Fashion not only includes clothing, but also any object where there is a concern for what is different, new and improved and which allows us to express our individuality. Fashion is so central to modern day consumption that it is difficult to imagine a culture in which it is not a major force. People throughout time have always been interested in the beautiful or in signs of status and in the pursuit of anything that brings them pleasure or happiness.
It was during the last quarter of the sixteenth century in England that consumption first took off amongst the European nobility. This powered to two important developments. First, Queen Elizabeth the first used the dramatic spectacle of fashion as a display of government power. Second, she forced social competition among the nobility by removing them from their locality where they were clearly superior and forcing them to attend the London court where they had to compete with equals. Previously consumption had always been a family matter and what benefited the family the most. But now Elizabethan noblemen began to spend less on their families and more on themselves to further show there class and status.
This desire for fashion has been kept up today and in most cases even further enhanced much to the detriment and harm of others. So bad has it become, that a person will sacrifice their basic needs at the expense of their fashionable desires.