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Study of American Consumerism

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Hello, I have this difficult project. Can you help me with it? I do not know where to begin:

In 1912, sociologist Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929) coined the term â??conspicuous consumptionâ? to describe a fundamental change in peopleâ??s orientations. By this term, Veblen meant that our previous emphasis on hard work and saving was being replaced by an eagerness to show off wealth by the â??elaborate consumption of goods.â? In The Theory of the Leisure Class (1967/1899), Veblen described early wealthy U.S. industrialists as engaging in conspicuous consumption â?" the continuous display of oneâ??s wealth and status through purchases such as expensive houses, clothing, motor vehicles, and other consumer goods.

As we have learned, the 60s was a decade of financial stability, spawning an age of consumerism as Americans began to accumulate material goods and began to internalize the concept of the â??American Dream.â? At that time, conspicuous consumption was not limited to the wealthy, but available to just about everyone. We have discussed the ideology of capitalism and how this has set the stage for economic power to be in the hands of a few at the expense of many. In light of our current economic situation, for this project we will be looking for evidence of this â??conspicuous consumptionâ? and the implications of this for us as individuals and as a society.

For this project, you are going shopping! No¦not to spend money, but to observe how others are spending their money. You are to go to a local department store such as Target or Wal-Mart and observe what people are buying based upon gender, race/ethnicity, age, and socioeconomic status. What do women buy? What do men buy? What do seniors buy? What do teenagers buy? And so forth.

Prior to going into the field, you should conduct some preliminary research on recent literature on consumerism in the United States. Look for articles based upon recent studies (no more than 5 years old) of peopleâ??s spending habits.

You are to spend 1â?"2 hours observing people, taking notes. Note what they are buying based on the various demographics above. Note how they are paying for their purchases. Are they paying with cash or credit cards? Note the types of products they are buying. Do they pass over the â??genericâ? and instead purchase the name brands? Are they buying more sale items than regular priced items? Are they purchasing more â??necessitiesâ? as opposed to â??luxuries?â? (Yes, a bag of chocolate would be considered a â??luxuryâ?!)

After you have completed your observations, you are to write a 2â?"3 page paper analyzing what you have observed.

1. What conclusions can you draw from the spending habits of people based upon their demographics?

2. What evidence do you see that we are living in a consumer- oriented, materialistic culture? Do we buy impulsively or is there more deliberation over what we buy?

3. Do you see evidence that we are truly living in hard times based upon how much we are spending, what we are buying, how we are paying for it, and such?

4. Referencing your outside sources, do you feel that current research on consumer habits is valid? Why or why not?

5. With the spread of capitalism throughout the world, what evidence do you see that consumerism and materialism are also spreading? Give at least one example.

Your project should be 2-3 pages in length

â?¢ Double spaced

â?¢ #12 font â?"Times New Roman

� 1� margins on all sides

â?¢ Separate cover page and reference page

â?¢ A minimum of two reliable, scholarly source

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Dear Student,
Hello and thank you for using Brainmass. The solution below should get you started. If you have any questions in relation to this solution, do let me know via the feedback section or you can use the references listed for further research. A word version of this solution is attached with a cover page. Good luck with your paper.

OTA 105878/Xenia Jones

Consumer Choices

For this small-scale research, I have chosen to observe shopping choices at my local Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart has 4 general types of stores, the Discount Store, the Supercenter, Sam's Membership Club store and Neighborhood Retail stores. It offers over 28,000 items on retail falling under the categories of - Bakery, dairy, deli, frozen foods, general grocery, meat, pharmacy, produce, seafood, snacks, and liquor. Once in a while 'special' sections offer electric appliances, stationeries and other non-grocery goods dependent on demand and location (i.e. during school openings or the holiday season with items that could be 'gifted'). The store covers about 40,000 sq. ft., a quarter of typical supercenters but is compact enough to allow easy access, smaller lines but with the same Wal-Mart prices. Access of the community the store swerves is key being that it is right outside a populated area in the suburbs. Hence, most people living in the area (of which I am one) use this neighborhood store regularly as our source for most of our weekly grocery needs. Their biggest competitions are the gourmet stores, Wholefoods stores within the 'village' but their prices make them less attractive to consumers. In this particular observation I noted the spending and purchasing preferences of the following 'Typologies' - teens (divided to affluent and lower class), elderly (divided as well to affluent and middle to lower class), young couples (same division as with the elderly), single middle-aged males and females (same division) and families (same division). I am going to overlay the ethnic category over the results of my observation in these typologies as I think ethnicity is a more 'general' attribute and economic capacity actually influence choices more than ethnicity does in this case because while the community the store serves is very much multicultural, it is a largely 'American' community, with all members 'sharing' in the American identity and culture rather than identifying themselves as 'other'.


The teens/youths who went into the store typically went for single or double items in the snack food section, buying chips and soda. Once in a while they would browse through the small computer games and gaming consoles display but since the titles are limited, this does not interest them much except for the boxes that put on 'sale' some ...

Solution Summary

The solution is a 1,644-word tutorial module that discusses American consumerism focusing on consumer choices and exploring the implications of this choices in relation to the current state of the economy and the trends in American society as it relates to social development. To detail the discussion a sample observation based on recent fieldwork is presented using varied representations of social class and gender (teens, adults, men, women, varied ethnicities). An opinion/analysis based on the information provided concludes this solution. References are listed for expansion. A word versionof the solution is attached for easy printing and digital use.