American Dreams: Consumer Culture

American Dreams sitting on an American flag.

So it’s Independence Day for Americans on Wednesday, and knowing that I myself, and probably this blog, have both enjoyed insulting Americans for sport, I thought it would be a good idea to celebrate all the good things that America has given us.

After an extended period of trying to remember all the good things that America has given us, I am proud to present this blog’s first mini-series: American Dreams.  I hope you enjoy.

A shopping trolley in a river.

This is probably symbolic. I’m not sure what it’s symbolic of, but it’s important that it’s symbolic.

I could not be considered a true player of the NationStates game if I did not mention Max Barry’s favourite American Export: the power of consumerism.  It’s an old chestnut, which may or may not actually exist, but certainly has been invented by that lovable entity we know as America.

The concept behind a consumer culture is simple, and it is what drives any Capitalist society.  Essentially, the whole of such a society is geared towards the consumer, and his or her needs and wishes.  It drives the whole culture and economic system from top to bottom, regulating quality and effectively making everything tick.

Of course there are some – Mr. Barry, for example – who might be tempted to argue that we are merely presented with the illusion of choice.  Does consumerism really exist, or do corporations tells us what we want, and then proceed to sell it to us at their own prices?  However, regardless of which side has the power, the culture that surrounds consumerism is real. massive, and a major export of the United States.  We see it in the concept of branded clothing, in fast food on demand, even in the number of channels we have on our television.  If someone wants it, they can have it.  For a price, of course.

It is very easy to consult consumerism, but we take a lot of the benefits it brings for granted.  Cost wars drive down food prices when we go out shopping.  Companies today struggle to sell shoddy products in the face of damning reviews on the internet.  Even having Fair Trade products on our shelves is a result of consumer pressure in some form or other.

Much of this is, admittedly, connected to modern forms of communication, particularly the internet, which allows anybody to have a voice.  However, even with these many mechanisms, it is doubtful whether we would have had a such an impact as consumers had America’s culture not been so prevalent in our daily lives.