The contention is that though American culture has been manipulated into accepting materialistic 'must have' consumerism as a cultural value, there are those, past and present, who provide a glimmer of hope for a return to the better, more humane values of the American way of life.
According to Rao (2004), writing from an Indian viewpoint, the American Dream encapsulated "freedom," and "democracy" in a "land of opportunities." In reviewing the book, 'Affluenza: The All Consuming Epidemic', he cited figures from De Graff et al (2003):
Embedding of this value was reflected in "one poll found that 93% of teenage American girls rate shopping as their favorite activity." (Rao, 2004). He further contended that only about one quarter of mall shoppers are seeking to buy a specific item, the rest use shopping as therapy, for amusement, or just for its own sake. Americans in general would seem to have adopted shopping as a cultural value, a way of life. ...
There is little doubt that people are buying, not from necessity, but spending above their means in order to acquire possessions in a search for happiness and to belong to their culture. They must have the newest fashion, the best brand, the biggest house, the fastest car in order to feel valued.
Social theory provides some answers as to how this has happened. In order for businesses to make profits, they no longer seek only to produce to meet needs, but make sure that demand levels stay high, and so maintain the growth of a capitalist system. By marketing and motivating people to buy, this is accomplished; a psychological manipulation appears to be in place.
"Advertising, marketing and the mass media have become central to the
stimulation of demand through the continual invention of new wants. The
images and identities they disseminate promise satisfactions earlier
generations never dreamed of. They suggest life-styles of endless acquisition
and inexhaustible glamour, which can be had at the pleasurable price of
merely buying more and more." (Noble, 2000, p. 231)
This shows how people can be sucked into the shopping vortex, with little or no regard for its effects on the individual or the world in general. The impact worldwide, where poorer nations make the goods, on low pay (rendering American workers jobless), in sometimes slave-like conditions, to feed the greed of multinationals and consumers, presents an immoral and inhumane side of capitalism. Sanders (2000), in an article on Maytag and the North American Free Trade Agreement, stated:
"The simple truth is that American workers cannot, and should not be
"competing" against desperate workers in developing countries who are
forced to work for pennies an hour." (Why Overcoming