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Julian
QUOTE(The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.)
con·sume (kn-sm)
v. con·sumed, con·sum·ing, con·sumes
v.tr.

1.To take in as food; eat or drink up.
2.To expend; use up: engines that consume less fuel; a project that consumed most of my time and energy.
a. To purchase (goods or services) for direct use or ownership.
b. To waste; squander.
3. To destroy totally; ravage: flames that consumed the house; a body consumed by cancer.
4, To absorb; engross: consumed with jealousy.[/list]
v.intr.
1. To be destroyed, expended, or wasted.
2. To purchase economic goods and services: a society that consumes as fast as it produces.
(Middle English consumen, from Latin cnsmere : com-, intensive pref.; see com- + smere, to take; see em- in Indo-European roots.)


QUOTE(Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003)
consume [kənˈsjuːm]
vb
1. (tr) to eat or drink
2. (tr; often passive) to engross or obsess
3. (tr) to use up; expend my car consumes little oil
4. to destroy or be destroyed by burning, decomposition, etc. fire consumed the forest
5. (tr) to waste or squander the time consumed on that project was excessive
6. (passive) to waste away
[from Latin consūmere to devour, from com- (intensive) + sūmere to take up, from emere to take, purchase]


Have we forgotten what "to consume" means, and therefore what the "consumer" in "consumer capitalism" actually does?

What is the future of consumption, and therefore of our economic system?

Edited to add: The "wither" (= shrivel) in the topic title was a mis-spelling of "whither" (= to where). But I kind of like the implied idea that consumer markets might wither (or might not - I'm not setting it forth as an opinion, just a play on words) as it's central to the topic itself.
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JohnfrmCleveland
I'm not totally sure what you're shooting for here, but I'll throw something out there anyway...

Have we forgotten what "to consume" means, and therefore what the "consumer" in "consumer capitalism" actually does?

I think the nature of consumption is changing somewhat, if that makes sense. A lot of what I "consume" these days is done from the comfort of my computer desk, or the couch in front of my TV set. (I'd add in the phone as well, but that's just not true in my case.) I download my music (yes, I pay for it) instead of buying CDs. Most of the entertainment in this house enters through one thin cable. It's still consumption - there's just a lot less cardboard and plastic wrap in my garbage can.

What is the future of consumption, and therefore of our economic system?

As in, is our present trajectory sustainable? Or, can we keep on increasing production as a necessary means of driving the economy forward?

I've said before in other threads that in the West, and maybe in some other areas, we certainly produce more than we have to to satisfy everyone's basic needs, and then some. The problem is in the distribution of that production. Our hunger to consume is still there, but around here, the poor don't have the money to spend and the middle class is nervous enough so they are spending less.
Bikerdad
Have we forgotten what "to consume" means, and therefore what the "consumer" in "consumer capitalism" actually does? No. I take in air which has oxygen, I use up the oxygen, I exhale the air.

What is the future of consumption, and therefore of our economic system?
As long as you have people who want to consume something that they can't produce themselves. and somebody else can produce, then you'll have an economic system, i.e, as long as you have people, we'll have an economic system.

To live is to consume.
akaCG
QUOTE(Julian @ Apr 11 2012, 06:49 AM) *
QUOTE(The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.)
con·sume (kn-sm)
v. con·sumed, con·sum·ing, con·sumes
v.tr.

1.To take in as food; eat or drink up.
2.To expend; use up: engines that consume less fuel; a project that consumed most of my time and energy.
a. To purchase (goods or services) for direct use or ownership.
b. To waste; squander.
3. To destroy totally; ravage: flames that consumed the house; a body consumed by cancer.
4, To absorb; engross: consumed with jealousy.[/list]
v.intr.
1. To be destroyed, expended, or wasted.
2. To purchase economic goods and services: a society that consumes as fast as it produces.
(Middle English consumen, from Latin cnsmere : com-, intensive pref.; see com- + smere, to take; see em- in Indo-European roots.)


QUOTE(Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003)
consume [kənˈsjuːm]
vb
1. (tr) to eat or drink
2. (tr; often passive) to engross or obsess
3. (tr) to use up; expend my car consumes little oil
4. to destroy or be destroyed by burning, decomposition, etc. fire consumed the forest
5. (tr) to waste or squander the time consumed on that project was excessive
6. (passive) to waste away
[from Latin consūmere to devour, from com- (intensive) + sūmere to take up, from emere to take, purchase]


Have we forgotten what "to consume" means, and therefore what the "consumer" in "consumer capitalism" actually does?
...

Which bit(s) of the American Heritage and/or Collins dictionary definitions of the word "consume" that you've provided are "we" supposed to take into account while "we" try to determine whether "we" have not only "forgotten" about it/them generally, but have "forgotten" about it/them as it/they relate(s) to "consumer capitalism" specifically?
Paladin Elspeth
Have we forgotten what "to consume" means, and therefore what the "consumer" in "consumer capitalism" actually does?

There is the image of PAC MAN, the yellow moving mouth of early video game lore, traveling a labyrinth gobbling everything in his path until the monsters change and start coming after him. That's what I think of when I see people described as being consumers.

There's the other idea that there must be producers in order for consumers to be able to consume.

What is the future of consumption, and therefore of our economic system?

The future is increased poverty for economies that were once thriving, where people could afford buying a clothes washer or refrigerator without having to take out a loan because the wages they make are pathetic. Outfits like Maytag may wonder why their sales are sluggish (I don't know if they are here; it's just an example) in areas like Grandville, Michigan, where they employed people for generations until they thought it more profitable to move their operations out of the country where wage slaves could make their products more cheaply. Multiply the Maytag experience by many, many more corporations, and you end up with Michigan's situation where there aren't enough good jobs to sustain the population and people have therefore been moving to other states in the hope of making a living wage once again.

Here's a link dealing with the consequences of outsourcing: http://www.cfr.org/pakistan/trade-outsourcing-jobs/p7749

Of course, things can always be bought more cheaply at places like Wal-Mart, where their current slogan is "live better," but who underpays their employees and obviously doesn't disclose that as long as people buy cheap, foreign-produced goods there, they can count on not being able to afford better quality, higher-priced goods in other stores.
Julian
QUOTE(akaCG @ Apr 12 2012, 05:30 AM) *
QUOTE(Julian @ Apr 11 2012, 06:49 AM) *
QUOTE(The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.)
con·sume (kn-sm)
v. con·sumed, con·sum·ing, con·sumes
v.tr.

1.To take in as food; eat or drink up.
2.To expend; use up: engines that consume less fuel; a project that consumed most of my time and energy.
a. To purchase (goods or services) for direct use or ownership.
b. To waste; squander.
3. To destroy totally; ravage: flames that consumed the house; a body consumed by cancer.
4, To absorb; engross: consumed with jealousy.[/list]
v.intr.
1. To be destroyed, expended, or wasted.
2. To purchase economic goods and services: a society that consumes as fast as it produces.
(Middle English consumen, from Latin cnsmere : com-, intensive pref.; see com- + smere, to take; see em- in Indo-European roots.)


QUOTE(Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003)
consume [kənˈsjuːm]
vb
1. (tr) to eat or drink
2. (tr; often passive) to engross or obsess
3. (tr) to use up; expend my car consumes little oil
4. to destroy or be destroyed by burning, decomposition, etc. fire consumed the forest
5. (tr) to waste or squander the time consumed on that project was excessive
6. (passive) to waste away
[from Latin consūmere to devour, from com- (intensive) + sūmere to take up, from emere to take, purchase]


Have we forgotten what "to consume" means, and therefore what the "consumer" in "consumer capitalism" actually does?
...

Which bit(s) of the American Heritage and/or Collins dictionary definitions of the word "consume" that you've provided are "we" supposed to take into account while "we" try to determine whether "we" have not only "forgotten" about it/them generally, but have "forgotten" about it/them as it/they relate(s) to "consumer capitalism" specifically?


You love quotemarks almost as much as I love parentheses (and I do).

How about "To expend; use up", "eat or drink up", "To destroy totally; ravage", "to waste or squander".

Natural resources are in finite supply. In most cases (iron ore, coal, aluminium ores, water) the supplies are far, far larger than we can currently imagine using up, and so widely distributed that no one country or region has anything approaching a monopoly of supply. We may, though, eventually run out of the most easily extracted sources, and so need to change our extraction techniques in ways that make the extraction and refining processes - and therefore the materials themselves, and the consumer goods they are contained in - significantly more expensive. So our current model of consumption will need to adapt

In other cases (crude oil, natural gas, rare earth minerals) the supplies are very much rarer (to varying degrees) and we're already at the point of needing to use more expensive extraction methods (e.g. deepwater oil drilling, oil shales 'cracking', etc.) to eke out supplies. Rare earth minerals (crucial to almost all modern consumer electronics) are disproportionately found in territories owned or controlled by China, and - by definition - they are rare to begin with. Natural gas reserves outside Russia and the Middle East are dwindling fast.

And the petrochemicals industry doesn't just control our fuels and energy generation (with the exception of nuclear and renewables*), it controls the supply of pretty much all plastics (including things like man-made textiles i.e. those not based on natural fibres like wool, cotton, linen etc.), artificial dyes (and therefore paints of all kinds, from your general home decoration type up to and including specialist marine anti-corrosion & anti-fouling concoctions), and so on.

*Though the powerful magnets needed to drive generators powered by wind, waves, hydroelectric power, tides, etc. contain rare earth minerals, so to avoid relying on one potentially scarce resource you have to rely on another.

Consumer capitalism as a concept copes with scarcity by increasing price, but what worries me is that the consumers (i.e. all of us), and marketers to a large extent, have got so used to a disposable model that the idea of building something to last, paying a premium price for something that will last, then not repairing or taking care of it (very much - some cheap clothes are designed to look great but are made of materials that fall apart after a couple of wash cycles, if they can be home-washed at all), but instead relies on replacing with another one or upgrading to a 'new and improved' model.

If scarcity drives up prices to the point where disposability is no longer cost effective (green politics would, no doubt, say that they are already there, but the 'true cost' are usually externalised or ignored altogether), our current consumer culture will have to change.

So, to answer my own questions:

Have we forgotten what "to consume" means, and therefore what the "consumer" in "consumer capitalism" actually does?

Yes, we have, to a very large degree.

What is the future of consumption, and therefore of our economic system?

We will still consume, but I reckon that within the next 10-20 years durability and reliability will make a big comeback in, for instance, consumer fashion & consumer electronics, so instead of upgrading our cellphone handsets every year or 18 months, and games consoles every 5 years, we will want a single handset or console that will last us a decade or more, where the software is far more upgradeable, and it'll be the software upgrades we pay more regularly to acquire not new hardware. Instead of spending $50 or a new shirt or dress that we'll wear a couple of times then put to the back of the wardrobe because it's gone out of fashion this month, or spending $20, wearing it twice, then throwing it away because its falling apart, we'll be more used to spending $200 on each garment, expecting it to last us a decade, and taking it to a tailoring & repairs service to account for losing/gaining weight, repairing wears and tears, etc.

Which means that the current trading models of a high turnover of trends and innovation in fashion and consumer electronics supply chains will have to change very dramatically.

Consumer capitalism will adapt, and so will consumers - that's what the system does and why it works. But the adaptations and changes that will need to be made are pretty big, and I think that they way new innovations are introduced in 2030 will look a lot more like 1930 than they look like 2005.

Consumption volumes (in certain markets) will continue to rise as consumers in currently developing countries converge on our habits and economies. But my hunch is that consumer volumes per consumer will have to fall because of the pinch in resources, and by the middle to third quarter of this century, barring armageddon of some type, consumption volumes will level off and even begin to decline.

It's what happens in every other consumption curve on the planet - after the exponential growth phase, you get stabilisation then slow decline. Humans are more innovative than bacteria, so we'll be able to postpone the stabilisation phase, and maybe avoid the decline althogether, but - rest assured - exponential growth cannot continue with finite resources.

What is exponential growth? Oh, let's see - the year-on-year percentage increases our entire economic, political and business systems are currently predicated on.
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