The History of Mass Consumption
The Industrial Revolution began in Great Britain in the late eighteenth century and marked the start of the movement away from a manual labour based economy towards one dominated by industry and machinery. Mass production suddenly became the cost effective option. This revolution quickly spread across many parts of the world, sparking massive socioeconomic and culture changes. Perhaps the most dramatic of these changes was a huge rise in the consumption of energy as steam power (fuelled mainly by coal) became increasingly popular.
From that time the developed world has continued to consume at a ferocious rate. The opening of the first department store can be traced back to the 1850’s and as their popularity spread the era of mass consumption and consumerism had begun!
Consumerism is the equation of personal happiness with the purchasing of material pleasures and consumption. Consumerism has become increasingly widespread during the twentieth century, especially in recent decades as citizens of developed countries have become increasingly wealthy.
Historically governments have always measured the success of a country in terms of the economic growth. However, it is becoming increasingly apparent that this may not actually reflect the well being of the citizens at all. Recent surveys have found that the Australian public are increasingly dissatisfied and unhappy, despite the booming economy of recent years. Indeed it seems that by concentrating upon, and even obsessing over economic growth, the governments of the world have jeopardised the well being of their citizens by losing sight of more meaningful community and relationship orientated values which have long been the mainstay of human society.