Western culture is a society based on mass consumption, organized around the pleasures of consumption by encouraging self-indulgence in its most blatant forms.
Freedom stems from possession of goods driven by material conditions, in which individuals are constantly seeking a way to tangibly express their increasing power, both locally and globally.
Testing our desires and needs, consumerism is enveloped by cultural forces, to the point where the two are inseparable and indistinguishable. The problem arises when we start to compare culture to consumption, or vice-versa.
Can a person form an identity without purchasing products or brands? Can a person develop an identity without identifying with any particular culture?
Consumers believe that their identity is an effort to build a distinct or acceptable image; self-absorption and narcissism are rooted in the importance of first impressions which lacks depth precisely because popular culture compels it to remain superficial as it is constantly metamorphosing.
Modern consumption patterns seek to promote not so much self-indulgence as self-doubt, creating needs, not fulfilling them.
In this cycle the self becomes translated into one of the possession of desired goods and the pursuit of artificially framed styles of life.
Cultural consumption is predisposed to fulfil a social function, implying that the denial of natural enjoyment constitutes an affirmation of the superiority of those who can be satisfied by gratuitous pleasures.
After the onset of globalisation the concepts of individuality and uniqueness have dissipated, or on the contrary, hyper-individualism in the face of globalising opportunities and the virtual fall of frontiers between cultures and brands have dissipated.
Society comes to dominate the individual through the material world of objects and interests, essentially for meeting needs but also for finding a self as advertisers attempt to manipulate the symbolic meanings and messages in an effort to induce consumers to want them, trying to identify their product with peoples’ general desires.
Of broad social concern is a collective disillusionment, an outcome of a structural mismatch between aspirations and real expectations, built around materialistic tendencies and the pursuit of self-interest in relation to the search for pleasure – typical features of a permissive, hedonistic culture.
Check out the whole anti-consumerism sequence.