Outline who are the winners and losers in consumer society. Post-industrial society, consumer society, society where consumption is more important than occupation, society whose main feature and most visible is the acquisition. Consumption has changed the look of main streets – more eating places, less local shops, and changed edges of the cities – new retail parks, many shopping malls. This distinguishing mark has divided contemporary society. As Zygmunt Bauman and main concept of his theory about Consumer society says, there are two major groups – ‘the seduced’ and ‘the repressed’.
Outright Bauman’s theory leads us to consider society in the context of winners and losers. People are shopping all the time and shopping is a part of consumption; however people can consume not just goods, they are able to consume services and experiences too. Many social scientists suggest we are living in a consumer society. They describe it as a label to refer a society when is defined as much by how people purchase and use as by what they make or do’ (Hetherington, 2009, p. 13).
Zygmunt Bauman, Polish sociologist who came to England in 1971, wrote his theory of Consumer Society which is divided into two main groups – the seduced and the repressed. The seduced are those who are able to partake in the consumer society by purchase goods and services on offer or having the transport to go to shopping or by being in the crowd. ‘The seduced included wealthy people… people with a good steady income and secure job who have enough money, or disposable income… o allow them to by things beyond the basic necessities of life’ (Hetherington, 2009, p. 26). They could satisfy their desires, they have the privilege of living their lives by on their ways, and for this reason they could call themselves the winners. The repressed are those left behind ‘consumer society’. That group include unemployed, the low paid, older public, some with disabilities or sic, or those who don’t have own transport to get to out-of-towns shopping centres.
Unequal access to various of goods, ineffective participation make them excluded, losers in Bauman’s society division. Media have a giant power. Populace always aspire to similar lifestyle. American sociologist Thorstein Veblen describes the concept of Conspicuous Consumption. He tries to ‘explain process of visibly displaying status to others through what had been acquired’ (Hetherington, 2009, p. 30). Showing a ‘perfect’ life by purchase expensive houses, posh cars and trendy, mark clothes allows people to create a personality, acceptance and recognition of others.
They have a prestige among society and others see them as those with a high status and this is often determined by the job and the occupational community in which they live as Bauman believes. People who can afford to be seduce by the illusion of choice or freedom, these who are seduced to create sense of self-expression and social membership through what they consume are becoming the winners. Why repressed are the losers then? They may fall into this group for number of reasons, not only because of low incomes but also because ethnic background for example or their age or even mobility.
Often excluded group wish to be a part of seduced, but their consumption is too ‘poor’; for instance people with some disabilities or older people ‘might be excluded from this world, either because they have to spend what money they have on basic foods, care, prescriptions… or because they are more socially isolated… their opportunities for self-expression and social membership… are likely to be more restricted’ (Hetherington, 2009, p. 29). People like debtors, criminals, unemployed or those who are confident to the workhouse, all of them are excluded. Consumer society pushed them to its margins, made them losers.
There is a different kind of winners and losers in our community. The big four – Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons – chains of supermarkets which flood the globe has big power. Market power is a power to influence market conditions, including price, independently of competitors (Allen, 2009, p. 66). They are the causes of loss of local shops and even shutting them down across the country, thereby limiting our choice and leading us to shopping in big stores. From this perspective all community became the losers. Big stores gained what they wanted – people are spending their many with them.
But on the other hand, those big stores have many ‘good offers’, cheaper goods not only basics like food or clothes, but like household appliances or LCD equipment, and those of the public, with low income for example, who’s been described as repressed in Bauman’s concept, become the winners here. There are a lot of worries about dominant position of big supermarkets as same as some communities see them as a force for good. Good instances for those are two cities – Partick and Linwood. In both of them, one from the big chain stores – Tesco, proposed builds its stores – in Partick Tesco wants to builds superstore on brownfiled and proposed edevelopment of Linwood’s shopping plaza. The first city takes position against giants’ plan. The society of Partick afraid of the ability to dominate the marketplace makes difficult for smaller shops, especially local butchers, greengrocers and florists to compete and prosper. In this situation people from Partick consider themselves as losers. That position is called by Wrong Zero – sum game. A situation which one party’s gain is balanced by another part’s loss. If you subtract total losses from total gains, they sum to zero (Allen, 2009, p. 70).
However supermarkets are the winners mostly, sometimes points to a different kind of power. Linwood is more eager for the transformation. In 80’s car plant left the town what run – down Linwood economically. They are ready for new, redeveloped shopping plaza. For them supermarkets point to benefits – jobs for the unemployed, choice for costumers and lower prices than ever before, social and economic regeneration. For Linwood’s community this a win – win situation, a situation in which the sum of total gains and losses of all parties involved is positive; that is, they sum to more than zero (Allen, 2009, p. 0). Consuming is a social activity as much as individual one. Shopping becomes a main preoccupation for many in society. People shop for necessities and also for leisure and services that makes their lives more interesting and liveable. Consumer society is divided and full of form of exclusion and inequalities. The seduced and the repressed are the way of society dividing. Winners and losers are related to the wealth and to the poor or how much choice people have. The big four, the chains of supermarkets seems to be the winners in our society.
Whit the speed of changes in modern society, membership of each group is constantly changing, influenced by local and national economy. 1 134 words References Hetherington, K. (2009) ‘Consumer society? Shopping, consumption and social science’ in Taylor, S. , Hinchliffe, S. , Clarke, J. , and Bromley, S. (eds) Making Social Lives, Milton Keynes, The Open University. Allen, J. (2009) ‘ One-stop shopping: the power of supermarkets’ in Taylor, S. , Hinchliffe, S. , Clarke, J. , and Bromley, S. (eds) Making Social Lives, Milton Keynes, The Open University.