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The rise and fall of capitalism

The rise and fall of capitalism

From capitalism and consumerism to sustainability. These important data, which explain in great detail a reality that we find difficult to understand when it comes to becoming aware of the essence of capitalism, which in reading we see in all its components and how imperceptibly defines our lifestyle, skills, positions , awareness.

The analysis presented in summary, defines the essence of consumerism and gives us hope for a world that decides to save itself, fighting against one of the evils of capitalism.

Assadourian affirms: “Human beings are part of cultural systems, they are shaped and determined by their cultures and for the most part they act exclusively according to the cultural realities, symbols, values ​​and traditions with which a person develops and becomes in something "natural". And that is what we will have to understand, the naturalness with which we accept a world of injustice and exclusion.


Changing that system of inequality to avoid the collapse of civilization requires nothing less than an absolute transformation of the dominant cultural patterns. This transformation would reject consumerism, the cultural orientation that induces people to seek meaning, satisfaction and acceptance through consumption, to replace it with a new cultural framework focused on sustainability.

But transforming culture is not an easy task, it requires effort, working tirelessly to reorient the key institutions that shape culture, education, companies, governments, the media, as well as social movements and a consolidated human tradition. .
The following data reveals an astonishing reality: in 2006, the world's population spent 3.5 trillion dollars on goods and services. These include basic necessities like food and housing but as income increases it is spent on more expensive meals, more luxurious houses, cars, personal computers, suits, cars. In 2008 alone, 68 million vehicles, 85 million refrigerators, 297 million computers and 1.2 billion mobile phones were purchased worldwide.

Assadouriam points out that as consumption grows more natural elements are extracted: fossil fuels, minerals and metals; logging of forests, plowing of land for cultivation, extracting 60 billion tons of resources (about 50% more than 30 years ago. This exploitation of resources puts increasing pressure on the ecological systems defended by humanity and other multiple species and currently we exceed more than 1/3 of the available capacity of the earth.

Climate change is just one of many symptoms of consumption levels. Water pollution, the loss of more than an average of 7 million hectares of forest per year, soil erosion, annual production of 100 million tons of hazardous waste, abusive labor practices for the desire to produce cheap consumer goods, obesity, increasing consumption patterns, are a consequence of excessive consumption.

Furthermore, it turns out that consumption levels are extremely unbalanced, which means that the rich population bears a disproportionate responsibility for the planet's environmental ills: 1.5 billion richest people in the world. (7% of the world's population), are responsible for 50% of carbon dioxide emissions, while 3 billion poor people are only responsible for 6%.

The rich population is the one that owns more goods, uses more electricity, uses more water, more energy, eats more processed products, more meats and buys more things.

The population of the United States spent 9.7 billion dollars on consumption, about 32,400 dollars per person, which represents 32% of world expenses with only 5% of the global population. If the whole world consumed like the United States, only 1.4 billion people would live in the world.

By 2050, a population increase is projected by about 2.3 billion people. No strategic measure to generate sustainable societies is possible if they are not accompanied by significant changes in consumption patterns. However, these changes in patterns do not depend on the consumer and to top it all, an increasingly dominant cultural paradigm of consumerism is systematically reinforced every day.


Most of the things we think of as "natural" are actually cultural. For example, in some cultures, worms and other critters are important elements in your meals. Europeans, for example, find it very repulsive despite the fact that many of them eat clams, slime, snails. It is a matter of culture. For this reason, consumerism is described as a cultural orientation, which according to economist Paul Ekins “is the possession and use of a number and variety of goods and services is the main cultural aspiration and is perceived as the surest path to happiness. personal, social category and national success ”. Consumerism leads people around the world to believe that it is the way to happiness, but paradoxically, consuming more does not mean improving the quality of life. But consumerism has profoundly transformed cultural elements: language, symbols, norms, values, institutions all over the world.

Advertising has been the main tool to incentivize it. In 2008, global spending on advertising amounted to $ 643 billion. Cinema and the media are the main advertising agents. As the author Duane Elgin explains: "to control a society, it is not necessary to control its courts or its armies, the only thing that is required is to control its information" Television, movies, the internet, are the most widespread leisure activity, that consume a third to half of the daily time of the people on the planet.

Much of the messages transmitted at this time, reinforce consumerist norms, foster materialistic ambitions, highlight the lives of wealthy and famous people with a high level of consumption or presenting stories that highlight the belief that happiness is achieved through a situation wealthy with the purchase of the latest fashion gadget. The impact of the media on the norms, values ​​and preferences of people is undeniable.

Only by changing cultural systems can these objectives be met:

First: discourage consumption: DO NOT consume excess food, junk food, or smoke, buy disposable items, not depend on the vehicle and change lifestyle to fulfill different daily activities.

Second: Substitute private consumption of goods for public consumption or for minimal or zero consumption whenever possible. Sustainable alternatives would be to grow food in community gardens, share books, activities, walks, transfers in vehicles. The importance of the vehicle is an imposition of the automobile industry, not a natural fact but must be accompanied by government measures to improve the public service.

Third: Design durable goods, avoiding disposables and that the products are recyclable at the end of their useful life.

This cultural transformation of course is not easy at all, so long that it could last decades and this depends on the initiatives that the Government and society itself begin to take place. To the extent that people internalize in a personal capacity, new norms and values.


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