consumer society A term sometimes applied to modern Western societies, which suggests that they are increasingly organized around consumption (of goods and leisure), rather than the production of materials and services. The usual list of late twentieth-century sociological suspects have been implicated in this development: increasing affluence, embourgeoisement, the emergence of a mass popular culture, growing privatism, demise of social class, appearance of consumption sectors and cleavages, growing individualism, and so forth. As will be clear from a reading of those entries in this dictionary to which the reader has just been referred, most of these trends are highly questionable, and it is in any case not clear whether, were they to be realized, the new consumer society would display those features of egalitarianism that some of its proponents have envisaged. Consumerism may simply underline the distinction between rich and poor—as, for example, in the phenomenon of conspicuous consumption. See also CONSUMPTION, SOCIOLOGY OF.
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