3. Consumerism and Over-consumption:
Uncontrolled consumerism is a colossal problem and a wide field of study.
The harmful tobacco industry and extravagance in celebrations, are but two
aspects of the much larger problem of consumerism.
a) What is consumerism?
(i) The theory that an increasing consumption of goods is
(ii) A preoccupation with and an inclination towards the
buying of consumer goods.
As human beings, we have basic needs like food and shelter, which are the bare
necessitates of life. We require more than this to live more productive and
comfortable lives. Progresses in science and technology have made available to
people, more than ever, goods and services that benefit mankind and become a
means towards better living.
Technology and material goods should be a slave to mankind that help him reach
his true goal. If these roles are reversed, or as someone said, 'The victor
belongs to the spoils'; then we have big problem at our hands. That, which was
meant to enhance our life, becomes its misery. In the words of Herbert Marcuse,
'The more 'materialistic' society became in the advanced industrial countries,
i.e. the higher, the standard of living rose for broad strata of the population,
the clearer became the extent to which this progress stabilized misery and
unhappiness. Productivity bore destruction within it and turned technology from
an instrument of liberation into one of new enslavement. Faced with a society in
which affluence is accompanied by intensified exploitation, militant materialism
remains negative and revolutionary (even where exploitation becomes more
comfortable and does not penetrate into consciousness). Its idea of happiness
and of gratification can be realized only through political practice that has
qualitatively new modes of human existence as its goal.' [Herbert Marcuse,
Consumerism has become the heart of our modern world, whereby endless shopping
malls stretch from corner to corner of the planet. Products that no-one in their
right mind could truly justify as necessary, adorn every shelf and showroom,
enticing towards wasteful and thoughtless consumption. Regrettably, this is
considered part of the acceptable goal of 'economic growth.’