Caught in Consumerism
The 2003 Consumer: Adjusted but Unhappy
By Karl Kollmann
[This article originally published July 30, 2003 in the German-English cyber journal Telepolis is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,
The consumer landscape has clearly changed in the last 20 or 30 years. The first results from a study continuing since the 80s demonstrates this. The most interesting conclusion of the first qualitative part of the study is that consumers are completely dissatisfied with their consumer conduct and the consumer society but don't see any alternatives.
Since 1982 Austrian consumers have been asked about their problems, attitudes and values by AK-Vienna  from a consumer research perspective (not for marketing reasons and sales goals). In good social research tradition, the representative survey adds a qualitative depth study. The reason is obvious. Quantitative surveys usually only scratch the surface. Whether 40 to 60 percent are for or against a product depends on the question and its environment. An electronic journal Zeitschrift fur qualitative Forschung  from Berlin can be found on the Internet.
Many conclusions  are not amazing. Consumers today are more adjusted than in the past to the consumer society, to the increasingly intense advertising pressure and to the diversity of possibilities. Younger consumers under 35 are relatively satisfied with the lifespan of consumer goods, the positive in advertising and the advice of businesses. Many find the operating instructions too complicated and hardly use them.
Privatization hardly benefits consumers
Consumers have little joy with so-called privatization (commercialization of past communal economic or governmental infrasrtructure monopolies that the European Union has forced neoliberalistically so businesses can earn money). One hardly uses anything apart from the telephone. The wage structures and conditions are too complex and inscrutable.
Consumerist adjustment spirals
The attitude of the majority, practically all the interviewede, on the consumer culture is perplexing. People today only pay attention to externals or minor details, consumer goods, money and success. This leads to the paradoxical result that one must act inn everyday life because everyone acts that way.
Thus consumers ultimately copy the advertising, competition and the achievement society produced by politics and the media in their daily reality and see no possibilities any more for exodus from this money- and success-pressure. The economically dominated reality has become self-referential. In Karl Polanyi's words, the market society is totalitarian.
This shimmering lethargy, resignation and powerlessnesws regarding environmental care obviously doesn't know any way out of this success pressure. Only an old tried and tested sedation is left for the souls of consumers unsatisfied with consumerism: new consumption.
Some very sensitive persons  despair and kill themselves - as now happens in Chechnya - when they see through these consumption- and money-spirals: "I am another victim of the democratic system in which money and power decide, not people."