Services Sector

Consumerism should be replaced by minimalism


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Minimalism as way of life

Consumerism Context

  • The COVID-19 pandemic brought shifts in consumer behaviour. The world witnessed a shrinkage of demand. But post-pandemic recovery and suppressed consumerism is now leading to ‘revenge shopping’.

What is consumerism?

  • Consumerism is a social and economic order that encourages the acquisition of goods and services in ever-increasing amounts.

What is minimalism?

  • Minimalism is owning fewer possessions. It is intentionally living with only the things we really need those items that support our purpose. Removing the distraction of excess possessions to focus more on those things that matter most.

ConsumerismWhat Is Revenge Shopping?

  • Revenge shopping occurs when a customer who previously could not get access to certain goods or services for a period of time suddenly has access. It can also occur when customers have been deprived of other events or happenings.

ConsumerismThe symptoms of excessive consumerism

  • You buy more than you planned: if you set out with a plan of what you need to purchase but consistently come back with more than you anticipated, then you’re falling in the consumerist trap.
  • You run out of storage space for your stuff: sometimes it can’t be helped if you live in a tight area or you’re disorganised. But suppose you’re in a reasonable situation and things you bring in don’t have an allocated home. In that case, you’re likely living excessively.
  • You rely too much on return policies: returning an item is useful. Particularly if you need to test a product for the intended purpose, be it sizing for clothes or a tool for a building project. However, suppose you’re depending on returns for purchases. In that instance, you’re not sure you need it, or if you can’t afford it, then you’re probably suffering from too much consumerism.
  • You routinely seek approval for your purchases: getting feedback on purchases can be reassuring, especially if you’re indecisive. Yet, there’s a difference between picking someone’s brain before buying and looking to justify your purchase after the fact. If you’re seeking post-acquisition approval, you probably don’t need the item.
  • You mistakenly buy things you already have: not much to say here. If you’re getting things only to realise you already have it, then you’re probably deep in a consumerist cycle.
  • You buy things on credit: if you’re strategic and disciplined, you can buy things on credit cards to acquire points and benefits. However, if you’re like the majority of us, then you’re vulnerable to buying things you can’t afford.
  • You constantly go over your budget: sometimes, you miss-forecast how much you need to spend each month. But if you set a realistic budget and find that you’re still going over, then you’re probably consuming excessively.
  • You regret your purchases: the most obvious sign that you have a shopping habit is you regret things you bought. Buyer’s remorse is an overwhelming feeling and one we want to avoid.

ConsumerismNegatives of consumerism

  • Causes more pollution: Consumerism as a system can have devastating effects on the environment.
  • A major contributor to resource depletion: The second main negative of consumerism is resource depletion.  Simply put, resource depletion refers to the idea that human beings are using up the resources on the earth as an ever increasing rate such that we will ‘deplete’ or completely use up some resources.
  • Leads companies to develop low quality products: Modern companies practice a technique called ‘planned obsolescence’. In general, planned obsolescence is best understood as products that are designed to fail. Modern companies do this to encourage consumers to repurchase a product over and over again.
  • Does not necessarily lead to increased happiness beyond a certain point: The main negative aspect of consumerism is that it does not necessarily lead to higher levels of happiness for people.
  • Global inequality: The huge rise in resource consumption in wealthier countries has led to an ever widening gap between the rich and the poor. As the age old saying goes, “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.”

What can we do?

  • Extend the lifespan of your things: Repairing your things is not only an effective way to reduce your consumption, but it’s also beneficial to the environment.
  • Reframe shopping as a skill: When you focus on the role the thing you’re buying will play in the overall experience instead of the experience of shopping itself, you’ll be able to shift away from a consumerist mind-set.
  • Do the deathbed test: Not to get too dark, but if you were hypothetically on your deathbed today, and you were reflecting on your life, what would be your fondest memories? The quality of our lives is generally measured by moments of “that was a good time”, not “that thing I had was awesome”.
  • Borrow or rent instead of buy: A simple method for getting your consumerism under control is to rent or borrow items instead of buying them.
  • Practice minimalism: What’s the ultimate alternative to consumerism? Minimalism. A minimalist is someone who naturally rejects consumerism and sees value in having fewer things over more things. Minimalism is a powerful philosophy that impacts how you view material things, your relationships, commitments, and digital inventory.


  • The M.K. Gandhi once said: “The Earth provides-enough to satisfy everyone’s needs but not any one’s greed.” We shall find that Gandhian call to curtailment of wants is relevant in the rapidly depleting natural resources, bio-diversity and eco-system and its contemporary relevance

Mains question

Q. What do you understand by the term consumerism? Discuss importance of minimalism as there is rise in revenge shopping in post covid19 era.

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