Essay plan: Explore the claim that a consumer society is always a ‘throw-away’ society Introduction Introduce how the essay will be laid out and put forward the topics which will be covered in the essay. Where disposable income comes from Looking at where disposable income comes from in ONS statistics and evidence. New types of consumption - Veblen’s and Susman’s concepts Using concepts to demonstrate how attitudes to consumption have changed and how these changes have been described by Veblen and Susman. The growth of purchasing power and opportunities to spendThis section discusses how people have more opportunities to spend their disposable income Waste This section discusses the rise in waste due to lifestyle changes and also due to differing attitudes to consumption.

Also discusses the Thompson theory which helps to understand the value of rubbish beyond cash value. It also looks at the effects of zero value waste. Conclusion The conclusion shows that changes in consumption and higher turnover of products means there is more waste. However it also argues that the value of waste needs to be approached differently.Explore the claim that a consumer society is always a ‘throw-away’ society Introduction Consumer society is a social economic form of buying and selling goods and services.

In order to explore the way in which this type of system may lead to unsustainable consumption and a high degree of wastefulness, I will first suggest looking at where disposable income comes from. Secondly, I will demonstrate both Veblen’s concept of conspicuous consumption and Susman’s concept of people taking on the role of ‘performers’ and developing a new approach to consumption beyond simple need.This will be followed by a discussion of how a rise in affluence along with the dominance of monopoly supermarkets has significantly contributed to the increase of mass consumption in consumer society. Finally, I will discuss how the increase in purchasing power coupled with the increased availability of retail opportunities often increases waste in the process.

Where disposable income comes from ONS (2008b cited in Brown, 2009, p. 11) gives evidence that household disposable income has increased between 1971 and 2006 in large part due to an increase in dual household earners, with more women in employment increasing overall household income. However, it is also the case that the rate of earnings have increased at a higher rate than inflation, which means that people are able to afford to buy more with their money. New types of consumption - Veblen’s and Susman’s concepts Along with mass consumption there has been rising affluence and prosperity in the UK which is possible to afford a higher standard of living.Veblen’s perceptions of how consumer society began to change in the late 19th century outlined how people started to consume in a conspicuous way to demonstrate their wealth to others.

Perceptions in item of necessities and luxury might be open as different option and definition (Brown, 2009, p. 108). Take for instance a graph of ONS (2008a cited in Brown, 2009, p117) 33 per cent average household expenditure is spent on food in 1957. By 2006 the proportion spent on food and non-alcoholic drinks were down by 15 per cent.

Susman’s argument was that people can use consumption to create a role or persona for themselves, and in so doing create an impression for the outside world, moving away from conspicuous consumption and more towards expressing their personality. This may be seen in today’s obsession with re-usable carrier bags and the message that these may give to others. It may be argued that people choose to display these bags to demonstrate some aspect of their personality to others. The growth of purchasing power and opportunities to spendIn addition to the rise in affluence in the UK, along with an increase in disposable income, another key factor influencing mass consumption is the growth of supermarket giants such as Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury etc. These huge corporations offers to sell a wide range of products under one roof; They have become so dominant by carefully researching and planning location, layout and facilities to attract consumers by selling competitive cut-cost products without considering their externalities and how this may have long-term social or environmental effects.

The way in which consumers shop has greatly changed in recent years to favour huge out-of-town retail parks and chains of shops rather than small independent stores. Waste There are a number of social factors which are underlie consumer behaviour, such as: people being cash and time poor; peer pressure; recycling; cost of labour; concept of externalities and media advertising. In the case of households where people are working longer hours with limited time to prepare a meal means that people are more likely to eat out or buy take-away meals. This also means that people buy a much larger quantity of convenience foods such as ready-meals.With the added factor of sell-by and use-by dates, all fresh food can only last certain amount of period before it reaches its expiry date and ends up in the waste bin. In the report The Food We Waste (WRAP, 2008a, 2008b Brown, 2009, p.

106) presents evidence that each year the UK throws away 6. 7 million tonnes of food. The rise of contemporary clothing stores on the high street, with a high turnover of goods depending on the latest fashions, consumers benefit from buying cheap clothing. However, this creates a perception that it is necessary to always buys new items in order to keep up with high street trends.This creates a large amount of waste as people often buy more than they need and discard items when they are perceived to be ‘out of fashion. ’ This process also applies to furniture, electric goods, cars etc.

Evidence in the graph of Defra (2007, Table 4 cited in Brown, 2009, p. 117) shows total amount of per capita household rubbish in England during 1983/84 to 2006/7 has risen by 31%, from 397 to 508. Although this is a statistic that shows the amount of rubbish that has been collected but it does not indicate the potential value of this rubbish if it were reused or recycled.However, rubbish activities mentioned above can often be seen as part of a cycle where they can be seen as having a positive value. Michael Thompson argues that the processes and contradictions involved in recognising rubbish are crucial to social life.

His theory is based on the idea that ‘an object’s move from transient to durable via the category of rubbish’ (Taylor et al, 2009, p. 123). Thompson proved a step further by demonstrating how Stevengraphs created in the 19th century by a Coventry silk weaver Thomas Stevens, changed in perceived value both economically and aesthetically as fashion changed.This type of evaluation has triggered an interest in investors having in mind to weigh items in between the values of economic, political, symbolic and aesthetic.

Not only did rubbish have a use value, but it can also have a zero value when an item is beyond the process of reuse or recycling. This is when the waste causes a serious environmental issue and becomes unsustainable. Take for instance Doctor Phil mentioned in Making Social Lives, Audio CD 1, getting rid of the ‘humble’ plastic carrier bag because it is not recyclable and actually cost to society and harms the environment.Conclusion The claim that a consumer society is always a ‘throw-away’ society may be true on many levels. People have changed the way in which they consume both to make a statement about status but also to demonstrate their personalities and this has meant that there is a large increase in consumption.

It is also true that people have a much higher percentage of disposable income than in previous generations and a different perception of luxury and necessity. This is added to by the fact that there is so much more choice and opportunities for consumers to spend this disposable income.This in turn creates a higher turnover of goods and therefore creates more waste. However, it can also be argued that there needs to be a change in the negative value of rubbish so that it is perceived as an opportunity to create or recreate something of value which can in turn feed back into the cycle of consumption and waste.

In this way consumer society may be able to become sustainable through creating a new approach to valuing waste as a potential resource, and making consumers more aware of the implications of their consumer choices.