globalization and consumerism

globalization and consumerism
   Neither consumerism nor globalization are new phenomena. ‘Consumer society’ has been a common way of characterizing the experience of living in the advanced economies for much of the twentieth century, and a focus for critical study by theorists as diverse as American sociologist Thor-stein Veblen, the journalist Vance Packard and the Frankfurt critical theorists Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer. Similarly, the ‘general interdependence of world society’, as Anthony Giddens characterizes globalization, was probably much more pronounced during the period before the collapse of the European colonial powers after the First World War. However, the notion that consumer tastes should be the guiding principle of social provision has coincided with a renewed period of globalization and has become an increasingly insistent theme in advanced economies since the 1970s and the rise of the Thatcherite New Right, with its aggressive, market-driven philosophy. In Britain, the subsequent privatization of public services and utilities and the restructuring of the state’s regulatory functions during the 1980s and 1990s has both increased the autonomous role of global capital and the transnational corporation, and lessened the state’s ability to control them. While it has been pointed out that a number of these corporations now have business interests which dwarf the economies of many lesser nation states, theorists like Ohmae Kenichi celebrate the apparent decline of the state and the rise of a newly empowered ‘global consumer’. It is within this context that recent critical debate has focused on the rearticulation of subjectivities and the disengagement from identity with national formations towards a more fragmented arena of individualized consumer identity increasingly oriented around the mass-marketing strategies of global corporations. The notion of consumption seems to have moved away from its negative connotations of wastefulness towards a more positive set of associations including an affirmation of the consumer as an active and resourceful subject.
   Further reading
    Waters, M. (1995) Globalization, London: Routledge.
   DAVID McNEILL

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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