Tag Archives: consumerism

Consumerism has gone global

A few weeks ago I had a little blog chat with Phil Whittall about consumerism. I claimed that consumerism existed in Solomon’s day, and Phil’s response was this:

But Solomon certainly didn’t live in a society where consumerism was the norm. You have a rich elite, with Solomon the richest of them all. His riches were in part God’s favour and in part his oppression of the poor.

I agree, consumerism wasn’t normality in Israel at that time and, as Phil pointed out, Solomon was in the consumerist rich elite as a result of God’s favour and also his oppression of the poor.

A thought struck me this morning though. There really is no difference between Solomon and us. For Solomon he was in the rich elite and the poor he oppressed in order to stay there lived in the same city as him, his servants were physically there to serve him.

Today we are the rich elite but our servants are in a different country from us. Through technological advances, virtually everything now happens on a global scale, including oppression. The only difference is that now our servants live in different countries and we don’t ever have to see them, they just make our stuff and send it to us.

If consumerism is more prominent now that it has been in the past (and this is hard to argue with), then it seems to me that one of the major causes is likely to be this disconnection from our servants who enable us to consume.

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Consumerism, really something new?

On the surface it might seem like consumerism as a way of life is a fairly new creation. The 20th century saw the rise of consumerism as the cultural norm in the west, and the term is certainly closely linked the current trend of materialism and consumption.

I dont think for a moment though that modern day western society can lay any claim to inventing consumerism, and I think its pretty arrogant to make that claim. The idea that we can improve our lives by consuming has been around as long as people have, and the modern west was by no means the first society to take up that mantle as the norm.

I have been working my way through Ecclesiastes with the help of Matt Chandler (have a listen here), and its pretty clear that Solomon both lived in a society where consumerism was normality, and recognised its folly. As Solomon writes at the start of the book,

What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.
– Ecclesiastes 1:9

Consumerism is a lie which must be challenged and responded to with the gospel, but it is not a new lie.

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