Monday, March 09, 2009

Post-conspicuous consumption?

I'm not sure America is really ready to close the door on a long era of conspicuous consumption, but at least people seem to be thinking about the issue:

In just the seven months since the stock market crash, the recession has aimed its death ray not just at the credit market, the Dow and Detroit, but at the very ethos of conspicuous consumption. Even those who still have a regular income are reassessing their spending habits, perhaps for the long term. They are shopping their closets, downscaling their vacations and holding off on trading in their cars. If the race to have the latest fashions and gadgets was like an endless, ever-faster video game, then someone has pushed the reset button.

“I think this economy was a good way to cure my compulsive shopping habit,” Maxine Frankel, 59, a high school teacher from Skokie, Ill., said as she longingly stroked a diaphanous black shawl at a shop in the nearby Chicago suburb of Glenview. “It’s kind of funny, but I feel much more satisfied with the things money can’t buy, like the well being of my family. I’m just not seeking happiness from material things anymore.”

I wrote a little bit about this yesterday, and the Story of Stuff talks a bit about "planned obsolescence" and "perceived obsolescence," two ways that the people who make stuff get us to buy more of that stuff.

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