The consumer culture is a powerful subculture in wealthy, industrialized nations. It seems to have originated in the United States in the 1950s. During this time, the population was growing rapidly because of the "baby boom" after World War II. Industrial productivity was rising as well, and relatively new psychological methods of advertising were being used to encourage consumption in order to keep the economy growing. These campaigns claimed that with the proper consumption, an ideal happy life could be achieved.
The source of this culture is the corporate sector of society, which produces the goods to be consumed. Beliefs that characterize this culture are:
  • Happiness is gained by purchasing the proper name brand goods. Consumer culture is a culture of passivity. The idea of creating things, as opposed to simply buying them, is totally foreign to it.
  • The importance of the "new". Faddishness can be found in other cultures, but in consumerism it seems to exist as an interplay between individuals, groups, and corporations. Fads, usually at the group but sometimes at the individual level, can be picked up by corporations and disseminated to the culture at large. Then, they become fashion, and tend to be enforced within the consumerism hierarchy fed by that set of corporations. Certain individuals are able to improve or maintain their hierarchical status by redefining fashion or creating fads.
  • Personality can be meaningfully defined in terms of brand loyalty. The modern concept of brands originated in the first half of the 20th century and were marketed as a way to be sure of getting a consistent and reliable product in a time when many things were still sold in bulk. Brands that are part of consumer culture are marketed as a way to achieve a lifestyle. One’s personality is defined by the message that one’s choice of consumer goods says about one’s desired lifestyle.