Demand-led or industry-led consumption?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Much of our consumption, bar for life's essentials, is not as a result of need – thus demand – but of something that has been suggested to us, almost and maybe even literally, subliminally. By who? Industry, who else, via advertising.

MendingBy means of advertising on TV, radio and in printed media (and now also on the Internet), as well as on billboards, industry creates these perceived needs that make people rush out – or go online – to buy these unnecessary necessities. Pardon the paradox, the oxymoron, but it is one that people really fall for.

Most of our thus perceived needs that lead to unnecessary consumption are created in our subconscious mind by advertising and are only wants that we, because of industry's efforts, perceive not as what they are but as something that we urgently have to have (to bring us happiness, make us better in this or that, etc.).

Industry-led consumption, however, is not only created by advertising. It is also created by the fact that almost nothing nowadays is repairable and comes with a built-in obsolescence of bar a year to three after which we have to buy the same product again or an updated one, and that time and time again.

This is the way they keep the economy growing as, in the statistics, this always shows up as new purchases and thus give the false indication of a growing economy. That, aside from the fact that the perpetual growth economy is not good for us and the Planet.

The first step to change this entire thing is to stop being brainwashed by advertising that those things they praise to high heaven are things that we have to have and the second is to demand from industry that products they make are repairable.

The former anyone can do by simply ignoring the ads and the second we all can also do by using our buying power in that we shop for well-made products that are repairable.

I know very well that for the latter to work we would also have to have places that actually can mend things and who do not reply on machines and no skill to stick a sole onto a shoe but are incapable to repairing a seam of a leather bag or boot.

The problem is that the economy is geared to selling new goods all the time and repair does not make for economic growth statistics and thus the repair economy has been – basically – murdered, especially by means of the built-in obsolescence in the majority of products made and sold. Almost nothing is repairable and those goods that are cannot because, unless you can do it yourself, there are no longer repairmen or -women capable of doing true repair work and really fixing things that are broken.

Good news is on the horizon, though, as far as repairing is concerned. The Guardian newspaper has reported in May 2014 that repairing, especially of clothes, is in again and that many people are taking up sewing again, by hand and machine, often by means of the old-fashioned sewing machine of the kind that our grandmothers used to use.

© 2014