ESSAY PLAN Environmental unsustainability / Vivienne Brown p. 115 Discuss the role of the concepts of the seduced and repressed for understanding the place of consumption in contemporary consumer society. This essay will give two sides to Bauman’s concepts and address the implications in order to ascertain whether or not the roles of these concepts do help us to understand the place of consumption, in what is increasingly being referred to by many social scientists as a consumer society. Consumer society is a term used by many social scientists, including Zygmunt
Bauman, when referring to contemporary Western society. Hetherington argues that the conceptual shift away from the term ‘industrial society’ to ‘consumer society’ stemmed from the decline in traditional manufacturing industries in the 1980’s. This resulted in an increase in employability in the middle class service sector for the working classes, enabling the masses to afford and enjoy the trappings that were previously only attainable by the well paid and wealthy. As a result of this, class divisions were less obvious and consumption became a major factor in determining how society was characterised. 2009, p. 22). Bauman’s concepts of the seduced and repressed refers to his categorisation of consumers based on their ability to consume effectively in contemporary consumer society. Some of the factors taken in to account by Bauman for categorisation in to either group include: wealth, age, ability, disability, social status, freedom and discrimination. Bauman argues that the seduced are the consumers that are able to buy into a particular lifestyle and are able to feel included in to certain social groups. Hetherington notes that Bauman argues the seduced are consumers that an display their perceived membership of social status to others by being able to purchase goods for reasons other than that of the function of the good itself. (2009, p 27). For example a ? 5 watch from a petrol station tells one the time, however, an ?80,000 Patek Philippe watch does much more than this. It is a non verbal means of conveying to others, the owner’s status as a wealthy individual. In this respect, Bauman’s concept of the seduced is similar to Veblen’s concept of conspicuous consumption. Hetherington notes that Veblen’s concept involves consuming as not nly a means to display to others one’s wealth but also as a means to join in, to be included in social circles of where the consumer feels that they belong. (2009, p. 33). However, consumers that have disposable income may choose not to fall in to Bauman’s category of the seduced for social, ethical or environmental reasons. For example, a consumer with the financial means of shopping for clothes in designer boutiques may choose not to be manipulated by media and buy clothes from local markets or second hand shops. An ethically minded consumer may choose not to buy items from the ‘big four’ supermarket chains, knowing that certain items may ave been manufactured by children in textile factories in Bangladesh for a pittance of a wage much like Lina (Taylor et al, 2009, p. 88). Therefore, by choosing not to participate; consumers are not necessarily of low status as Bauman would have us believe. As stated earlier, Bauman’s concepts of the seduced and repressed do not hinge singularly on a consumer’s ability to spend money, although this is a major factor in his argument. Bauman argues that consumers that fall in to his category of the repressed include everyone else that is not able to participate in being able to choose a particular lifestyle.Order now
According to Bauman’s concepts, a repressed consumer would include a consumer with ethical beliefs that would be forced to put aside those beliefs because of financial reasons. An example of this would be a single mother on a low income who although aware of the exploitation and working conditions that children in Bangladesh and similar countries are forced to work, in order to supply the likes of Primark, still has to clothe her children. Local markets with local products were possibly 15 years ago, the place to shop for inexpensive items. Those days have gone due to the power of the ‘big four’ and shops like Primark.
For competitively priced items, there are increasingly less outlets for consumers such as this to shop. Another example of a repressed consumer is a consumer who, for environmental reasons, would prefer to buy locally grown produce from a farmer’s market rather than imported goods from one of the ‘big four’, and is unable to attend because of a disability. I. e. it may be virtually impossible to get around a muddy field in a wheelchair. Similarly, mobility in terms of transport may be the issue i. e if the potential consumer of the farmers’ market couldn’t afford a car or couldn’t physically rive through disability then they wouldn’t be able to access the market. As social networking sites such as Facebook are increasingly becoming part of people’s lives, primarily the younger generation feel it is imperative for them to have internet access to be included in certain social groups. By not having, or affording to have internet access, social exclusions could occur, making the individual, as Bauman would put it, repressed. The same could be argued for older adults who may feel socially excluded, port retirement if internet access was not available to them. If Bauman were to categorise migrant workers in the U.
K. , working long hours, in sometimes poor working conditions and for a minimum wage, one would imagine that, based on the concepts of seduced and repressed he would clearly categorise them as repressed due to the fact that they can not consume effectively. In contrast to this, one might argue that it is up to the individual to decide whether or not they categorise themselves in to either group and not for society to do so. A migrant worker on a low wage in this country may believe that he/she is actually seduced as he/she is able to provide for his/her family in their home country; enabling them to live to a much igher standard of living that if they had stayed in their native country and worked for a much lower wage. Being able to consume effectively in this case makes one realise that aspirations of levels of consumption become much more personal to the individual. Data from a study by the ONS, (2009. p. 24), shows that the average weekly household expenditure in the U. K. totals ? 372, (after the mortgage or rent has been paid). A total of ? 157, 42% of the total, is spent on items such as recreation and culture, transport and restaurants and hotels. Based on these figures, Bauman’s concept of the seduced would include the average U.
K. family One could argue that Bauman’s concepts of the seduced and repressed are ambiguous in terms of defining categories and may just as well use concepts such as the rich and the poor, as with such concepts it would be assumed that the writer meant in terms of money where as the reader may refer to some sections of society as rich in time, e. g. the unemployed, where as wealthy entrepreneurs may be poor in time due to the long hours that they work. Vivienne Brown argues that as a global nation, we are increasingly consuming at a rate that is environmentally unstable due to the amount of waste that is being created y consumers, thus putting the future of the planet’s ecosystem’s ability to continue into the future at risk. (2009, p. 115). Based on figures compiled by the ONS, (2009,p. 112), real average earnings in the U. K. have increased by 50% between 1990 and 2007. If, based on Bauman’s concepts, the average family is seduced, then increasing expenditure on goods surely demonstrates that the social implications are that the world is becoming increasingly environmentally unstable. In conclusion, Bauman’s concepts of the seduced and repressed, although somewhat stereotypical does show a large cross section of society as a whole. However, as a role or understanding the place of consumption in contemporary consumer society, one may argue that there are far too many examples to contradict these concepts. Bauman has applied his concepts to a majority of particular sections of society and not taken in to account the views of individuals, rather generalising categories subject to their social group, age or ability. WORD COUNT : 1357 References Taylor, S. , Hinchliffe, S. , Clarke, J. and Bromley . S (2009) Making Social Lives, Introducing the social sciences, Milton Keynes, The Open University. Staples, M. , Meegan, J. , Jeffries, E. and Bromley, S (2009) Larning Companion 2,
Introducing the social sciences, Milton Keynes, The Open University. SELF REFLECTION I found the course material for this assignment particularly interesting. I felt that I understood the coursework. However I found putting my thoughts down on paper for this TMA much more difficult. I am trying to take on board the comments from my last TMA. ———————– Discuss the role of the concepts of the seduced and repressed for understanding the place of consumption in contemporary consumer society Bauman’s ‘repressed’ low income, disabled, loss of social interaction. Not able to afford to be manipulated by the media
Bauman’s ‘seduced’ consumers with disposable income able to consume effectively. Identity. Belonging to a particular social group Ethnic minorities, older people on state pensions. Restrictions on involvement due to lack of finance Conceptual shift from Industrial to Consumer. Luxury items now available to the masses. Buying lifestyle Problem with concept. Individuals may choose not be seduced due to ethical issues or see through the media manipulation. Migrant workers seduced or repressed? Individuals choice? Social messages associated with consumption. Veblen Conspicuous consumption. Buying to show status within society