Summary: The Economics of Consumption (Consumer culture)

The book The Consumer Culture: a reference handbook, is a goldmine of information on consumerism and consumption.  I’m providing a series of summaries to help educate people on topics about consumerism. 

Consumer Culture: A Reference Handbook

Douglas J. Goodman, Mirelle Cohen, ebook 251 pages, 2003 ,ABC-CLIO

Chapter: 2, economics of Consumption (part of the larger chapter of ‘The contradictions of consumer culture’).


The supremacy of the market has become the natural law of the land in our liberal society. With that, we also have the general public becoming more suspicious of government, seeing it more as a bureaucratic interference of the economy, rather than a moderating force from the excesses of our economic system (pg.28).

Historically the actual role of the consumer gets limited treatment in classical economic texts, yes, they do get some mentions, but very limited expanded thought.  Goodman & Cohen quote Adam Smith who wrote this about consumers (pg.28):


“consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production and
the interest of the producer ought to be attended to, only so far as
it may be necessary for promoting that of the consumer. The
maxim is so perfectly self-evident, that it would be absurd to attempt to prove it” (Smith 1937, 625).

The consumer in early texts was treated as important, but as I already said, did not receive much analysis.  Consumption was just seen as consumers meeting needs, increase in income usually resulted in more consumption because consumers could meet more needs or increases in consumption was the result of greed. I think the view is very consistent with the classical liberal view of people and the emphatic view of the individual as the most important unit in the economy.

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