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Consumer society and an insight to its beginnings

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 1620 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Discuss what a consumer society is and an insight to its beginnings. Divisions suggested by theorist Zygmunt Bauman. Discuss supermarket power and whether they offer choice to consumers discuss the winners and losers in a consumer society, conclude on choice to consumers.

Main Body

Paragraph 1

Explain consumer society, discuss who is involved and ways it describes society using evidence from making social lives introduction p3-8, making social lives, 2009, Chapter 1, p20-21.

Paragraph 2

Explain Industrial society, and class divisions within. Making social lives, 2009, chapter 1, p25.

Paragraph 3

The uprising of department stores, what changes it bought to consumption. Making social lives chapter 1, p37.

Paragraph 4

Theorist Bauman (1988). Divisions made in consumer society from economic growth, how society took part and their abilities to do so, the choices for those within the seduced. Concept - The seduced. Taken from making social lives, 2009, chapter1 p25-27.

Paragraph 5

Theorist Bauman (1988). Theory of 'the repressed', discuss who are the repressed in society and their choices. Concept - The Repressed. Claims taken from making social lives, 2009, chapter 129-31.

Paragraph 6

Supermarket chains the four largest groups, Protester groups against Tesco in Glasgow, reasons why against. Claims taken from making social lives (2009), chapter 2 p57-62.

Paragraph 7

Supermarket pro group, reasons why they are welcome supermarket uprising, claims taken from making social lives (2009) p62-65.


Anti and pro supermarket claims. Anti-Supermarket power how it is used, damage from power made to small retailers. Pro-supermarket consumer choice claims. Evidence taken from, evidence in social sciences, 2009, track1.

Paragraph 9

Define zero sum game within supermarkets, suppliers to supermarkets, working conditions abroad; those who have the power in consumer supplies, who has choice. Evidence taken from making social lives (2009) p83-91

Paragraph 10

Define Positive sum game, the winners and losers how supermarkets take part in Zero sum power. Claims taken from making social lives (2009), p 90-93.


Sum up choice in consumer society and how it is an unequal choice

Consumerism today means more than shopping for essentials, the way we take part in consuming gives an insight to whom we are and what we are about, our personality and the promise of a freedom to choose our lifestyle. There is no doubt that essentials shopping will always be necessary in life but there is also strong connections to socialization though the activity of consumption seen in contemporary UK today. This socialization is dependent on many factors like advertising and family and friend's pressures and our incomes, this is known as a consumer society. The ways we actively consume give us an identity in society.

Thirty years ago society was based around industry and people where defined by their jobs and class divisions known as industrial society, but due to a declining of many industrial manufacturers like mining, arrival of a more working or middle class society evolved this society introduced the idea of consumer society defined by the social activities of consumption thus reshaping society.

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The appearance of department stores first appeared around the 1860's they primarily sold the ideas of luxury to the wealthy by way of displaying plentiful goods with an immediate availability and offering to let people actively touch and connect items to create their lifestyles. Department stores began to sell the idea of luxury though seduction by the large Varity and stocks they could hold at any one time here began the uprising of consumption as a social activity.

Social scientist Zygmunt Bauman (1988) saw two divisions in contemporary day culture a society which he claims are the 'seduced and repressed'(Hetherington,2009,p25). The seduced of 30 years earlier were those who were land owners, lawyers or high paid bankers. But as consumption grew for economic growth in the late nineteenth century a wider class of people, those with job security, or a disposable income were able to enjoy the social freedom of buying into a luxury lifestyle, the ideas of consuming to build self expression and individuality became important role in identifying who we were and depending on how people took part told of class, success and wealth. The seduced society therefore are those who can take part effectively in consumption, not only because they can afford to but because they are seen as a positive members in society, a membership, the included those with wider options of choice.

There is different side to consumer society, Bauman suggests these are the repressed (Hetherington, 2009, p28) these are considered the excluded in society, often without means to take part in consumption effectively, characteristically those on a low wage, unemployed or with disability. Their opportunity to self express or take part in the social connection and effective consumption will be limited by factors like not having a car or having funds to buy the latest fashion or gadgets to fit in with an 'in crowd' these people are more choice restricted labelled as unsuccessful members in society. And so what's noticeable is that income predominantly gives a freedom of choice, it dictates the level at which society can take part.

Twenty first century shopping has taken a great step from department stores which although are still seen have declined, for out of town retail outlets, shopping malls and supermarket chains namely four large contenders Tesco, Sainsbury's, Morrison's and Asda. These reside in large spaces dedicated solely to consumption seen as safe place to shop a family environment within a modern setting. The ability to take part in out of town shopping is largely dependent on having transport this could lead to some of society being excluded if they didn't have access to cars or were less able to take part financially. One protester group, STOP (Stop Tesco owning Patrick) in the Glasgow town of Patrick has taken a stand against a proposed Tesco store being built on urban ground as they claim the development would caused damage to local retailers mainly family run by their power to dominate the market with the prices and choices they offer.(Allen,2009,p62).

There is also another group in a town close by to Patrick who have also had proposals from Tesco to build a superstore, but they welcome the development as they feel it will bring restoration to the area after closure of a large car industry left many unemployed, the development will attract other retailers into the area creating jobs and skills (Allen, 2009, p62).

There is growing concern regarding the ways supermarkets use their power within the grocery market, whether they use their size and influence to control consumer choice, and whether this has caused damage to the town centres and high streets, Helene Rimmer of friends of the earth suggests that approximately fifty small shops a week are closing directly from supermarket growth (Evidence in the social sciences, 2009, track1), limiting our choices to shop elsewhere. Richard Dodd from the British Retail Consortium suggests that consumers cannot be coerced to shop at the superstores more that they make the choice to do so as they are attracted to products and services offered and should they not like that they would make the choice not to shop there anymore he suggests that power and choice lays with consumer (Evidence in the social sciences, 2009, track 1).

Anti supermarket lobbies argue that supermarkets are restricting and dominating in other ways beyond just the end consumer, bulk buying from suppliers gives buying power offering good position to demand bigger discounts for goods, but often these discounts are passed down to workforces often in countries abroad and migrant workers via below standard minimal wages, long hours and unhealthy working conditions where what

It seems the only people gaining are the supermarkets who hold the profits and choice to source the lowest prices supplies, In all a Zero-sum market(Dennis Wrong, 1997,p70) where only one side gains.

The pro supermarket lobbies see the suppliers and factory owners to be at fault of the poverty to their workers from not pushing to get a better price for their supplies. The risks here though are that should they demand to high a price for goods the supermarkets will source an alternative supplier elsewhere with widespread loss falling back greatest on the dependant workforce. By keeping the workforces in jobs may seem like exploitation at its worse but this can be seen as a positive-sum game (Dennis Wrong, 1997, p70) where all parties involved will benefit as although these jobs are still at poverty level they are better than no job or the alternatives available often with a much poorer wage.

In sum there is consumer choice but it is a restricted choice for those of society who cannot take part effectively, but for persons within society with the affluence, power and the ideals to create a lifestyle choice is not governed so strictly, there is much freedom in choice. Large supermarket retailers play key roles in influencing our contemporary day to day choices in groceries as they hold such power within the market, here our choices are limited by their choices.

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