Have we always had a consumer culture in our society?

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stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A "consumer culture" is usually defined as being one in which the desire and need to purchase goods and products is supported and encouraged.

From the very early days of colonial America, the settlers depended upon each other to produce all the items needed to survive. Barter or trade was accepted as payment in many cases, but it was recognized from the beginning that no one could remain completely isolated from requiring products produced by others.

As the population became more established and more opportunities to accumulate material resources beyond what was required to purchase essentials were found, people began to spend more of their finances for "luxury" or comfort items. This supported the expansion of business, encouraging the invention and production of more items that could be offered for public consumption.

The United States has always supported free enterprise between sellers of products and services and buyers of those goods. The consumer culture has become more prominent as the percentage of the population with discretionary funds has increased, but it's always been present.