Consumerism & its Untold Truth

I was interested in the concept of a plastic society, one which is materialistic, superficial. From my perception of a plastic society, everyone is similar, like a clone, abiding by the same standards set by society. People follow blindly to these standards set by society to ‘be better’. Therefore, to be better, we have to be plastic, losing ourselves to be part of society.

“Its a Plastic Society we live in. Superficial… You’re different? No you’re not. Everybody is the same…Am I better, or worse…. These are the standards people have to live up to in this world.” [(Unknown). 2013]

I researched further into psychoanalytic theory, which lead us to the root of consumption. Greed is something which exist in everyone of us, subconsciously. Its an impulse to live, the desire to instinctively long for goodness: feelings, material possessions, privileges and praises. When we received goodness, we are comforted by an illusion that we are worthy of all these. All these cravings for goodness seems like something we could control when in fact, its hardwired into each and everyone of us. (Berger, A.A. 2010: 40, 41)

Another theory that will be useful in explaining the viscous cycle of consumerism we floundered in escaping will be the Marxist Theory. The roots of our consumerism behaviours is buried beneath the societies we live in. “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being determines their consciousness” (Berger, A.A. 2010: 43). In other words, we are a product of society we created and it is society which cultivates the consumerism in us. This is similar to the egg and hen theory, to know which comes before the other, we would never know.

To understand what in society breaded consumerism other than our subconscious greed living in us. We have to analyse the society we are in today. We live in a capitalist state, where everyone tries to establish themselves over others, to satisfy their egoistic needs, to feel more worthy of goodness. In a capitalist state, the ruling class has the capability to control production and creates alienated needs for others, just to maintain class division among the majority and them (Monbiot, George. 2013). A consumer culture in this state function as a distraction for the masses from developing class consciousness and to deceive them into believing consumerism is healthy for them to be relief from their alienation through working (Berger, A.A. 2010: 45). This is why consumerism is also phrase as retail therapy (Sturken, M. & Cartwright, L. 2004: 193). Very much similar to recycling, which is a myth that was said to be helping the earth but in actual fact, the amount of plastics on earth are still increasing and recycling is doing very little to help prevent the rise of its number (Rompa, I. 2014).

With these notions of consumerism comforting our sense of alienation achieved from working, and that to work is to fund our consumerism. This unhealthy vicious cycle we are trapped in is fuelled by our urge to consume. The more we consume, the deeper we ploy into this cycle. We consume without knowing we were ‘forced’ to – to relieve our sense of alienation- and indulge in it with delight due to our nature of greed. Similar to recycling as mentioned above, the cons of consumerism weigh more than our emotional satisfaction. However, we are not conscious about the negative impact but instead focus on the illusion of its goodness.  With this concept, I came up with my Photoshop Marquette.

Fig. 4: Dylan Chan. 2016. Consumerism & Its Untold Truth


BERGER, A.A. 2010. The objects of affection: semiotics and consumer culture. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

STURKEN, M. & CARTWRIGHT, L. 2004. Practices of looking: an introduction to visual culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press

ROMPA, I. 2014. The shocking scale of our waste– and the myth of recycling. [Video Online] Available from: [Accessed on 28th September 2016]

MONBIOT, George. 2013. Materialism: a system that eats us from the inside out. Theguardian [Online} Available from: [Accessed on 20th September 2016]

(Unknown). 2013. Blogspot [Online] Available from: [Accessed on 20th September 2016]


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