Consumerism and the Other Side of the Coin

May 14, 2012

“We live and work in economies based on the concept of ’just-in-time’ production – and ’just-in-time’ usually means things have to be ready in no time at all. Who sets the urgent pace according to which all others are measuring their progress? Or, rather: who sets the pace of planned obsolescence that keeps people buying the same product in slightly upgraded designs over and over again, allowing industry to thrive on the constant overproduction of what will essentially be tomorrow’s waste?” (1)

Consumerism has enabled many of us to get used to getting what we want, when we want it. This fast paced world feeds us with never ending options of acquiring new, shiny things which come accompanied with a vague promise of bettering our lives. However, the desire for each object will eventually fade and the day when it is deemed redundant will come – which leads us to the shadowy side of the consumerism coin.

On the other side of the coin we find the ‘enablers’ of this glistening consumerism, and it ranges all the way from the labourers, who make clothes and shoes and electrical appliances and tea, sometimes underpaid, sometimes working in harmful health conditions, without regulations and support, to the ship breakers in Chittagong, Bangladesh who work under such poor conditions that tourists are not allowed near the site since the government want to keep it ‘under wraps’. Then there are things like the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’, a mountain of approximately 100 million tons of plastic or twice the size of France, of waste floating in the Pacific Ocean, polluting and disturbing the marine life.

Consequently, maybe it is time to counteract the blindness created by consumerisms shine, and let us keep this thought in mind – if you are not paying for it, somehow, someone else is.

“…May effectively create a different (and no less factual) reality in which the unrequested exuberance of desire – rather than demand or discipline – determines what is real. Unfortunately, even if you manage to shrug it off exuberantly, the dominant reality principle tends to find painful ways of reasserting itself. In this sense, one such painful reminder produced by the timing of high performance culture is the current global experience of divided, alienated time. Today, times is becoming progressively disjointed as the ‘developed’ countries push ahead into a science fiction economy of dematerialized labour and virtual capital – and simultaneously push the ‘developing’ countries centuries back in time by outsourcing manual and industrial labour that imposes working conditions on them from the times of early industrialisation.” (2)

– Sofie Andersson


1 -Jan Verwoert, ‘Exhaustion an Exuberance’ in Tell Me What You Want, What You Really, Really Want, Sternberg Press, 2010, p. 35

2 – Ibid., p. 38.




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