World Bank Website

World Bank Website


IMF Website

IMF Website



Negative Consumerism:

Sterns (2001) in his book, Consumerism in World History: The Global Transformation of Desire, states the following in reference to consumerism:

All of us know people who “have to have” some item, that, objectively, they do not need at all. All of us know people who find emotional solace and personal expression in shopping. Some of us, indeed, are these people. All of us know about societies that seem desperately to want to move to a level of consumerism that will match that of the contemporary United States – the world’s consumer beacon by 2000. And all of us know about leaders in many societies who argue against consumerism, who seek to prevent its insidious contagion. (p. xi)

Squeezing Out the Competition:

Transnational corporations, in concert with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, often wield more power than the nation-states they operate in and have operated with virtual impunity. Market driven corporations dominate the traditional media through ownership and access (information subsidies). Alternate ideas and perspectives are not driven out of the marketplace through censorship, they are priced out. Citing Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Dozier and Lauzen (2000) suggest that the free flow of information is far from free:

The biggest weapon wielded and actually unleashed by imperialism against collective defiance [of the oppressed and exploited] is the cultural bomb. The effect of the cultural bomb is to annihilate a people’s belief in their names, in their language, in their environment, in their heritage of struggle, in their unity, in their capacities and ultimately in themselves. (p. 18)

The Development of a Consumer Identity:

Culturally specific identity is replaced by a consumer identity that redefines the individual in terms of products. This trend is pervasive, and advertisers, through direct targeting and the trickle down affect, reach into the slums of Calcutta with its 70,000 VCRs and Mexico where “homes with television sets outnumber those with running water” (Mueller, p. 250). While marketers and advertisers may directly target the elite and middle classes, “their advertising is “democratically” heard via transistor radios, seen on billboards and, to a lesser extent, on television” (Mueller, p. 252).

Depletion of Natural Resources:

Critics of consumerism charge that in developing countries, “scarce national resources are squandered for the production, promotion, and consumption of products that simply are not needed by consumers in developing markets” (Mueller, p. 256). Also, While economics might suggest people buy the cheaper product, advertising often results in consumers buying higher priced imported products.

Conspicuous Consumption:

Western-style marketing and advertising are causing the spread of conspicuous consumption with negative consequences for developing countries. While some would argue that globalization is raising the standard of living in low-income countries, “more than one-fifth of humankind still lives in acute poverty” (Mueller, p. 250). Critics point out that even the poor have become subsumed by consumerism and they argue, “local governments in developing countries must consciously decide where valuable resources are to be spent” (Mueller, p. 256)



Provided by Megan VandeKerckhove -
Last Updated December 5, 2002
Copyright Megan VandeKerckhove 2002 all rights reserved