The History of Consumerism in America

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Consumerism is both a social and an economic system that is based solely on the creation and dissemination of the purchasing of goods at an ever increasing rate. After the founding of the United States, and particularly after the Civil War, America was growing by leaps and bounds. Railroads opened the West, factories increased in urban areas producing steel, building was rampant, and all of these activities took a larger labor force. Because these vast numbers of workers were unable to produce their own essential goods as they did under agricultural societies, factories were set up to produce those goods as well. Because of this method of production, the previous norm of scarce resources, when combined with modern technology and production methods, changed to a situation in which products were available in large quantities at relatively low prices, and available to virtually everyone. In fact, this trend moved so fast that the term "conspicuous consumption" began to define American society in the 19th century, becoming even more rabid in the 20th (O'Cass and McEwen, 2006; Faragher, et.al., 2009, Chapter 19). However, we can look at consumerism from a macro (downward) or micro (upward) progression. For consumerism to occur there had to be disposable income to purchase goods and services. For that to happen, there had to be extra dollars left over from the worker so that they could enrich their material life. And, within that segment, instead of being owners and workers,
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