Visualization of narrower problems
Self-indulgent consumerism
Overemphasis on the consumer role
Diverted consumer spending
In wealthier countries, replacement purchases for clothes, entertainment products, automobiles and home-furnishings are made with a frequency that is not justified by the wear of these products. It is the profligacy of a self-indulgent consumerist ethic that is responsible for the excessively high retail turnover. Although it may be argued that this creates jobs, it nevertheless depletes resources, and may also indicate an imbalance of wealth in a society where there are people starving or being denied essential social services, while at the same time department stores are registering record sales. This ethic leads to self-indulgence and a cheapening of human values.

The average individual is most often addressed not as a citizen, a worker, a thinker, or any of his other roles, but as a consumer. This eventually becomes the role in which the individual sees himself most clearly. This image of being a consumer limits the ability to relate to others in appreciation, friendship or even, finally, mutual respect.

1. The emphasis on consumer materialism is at the expense of the spiritual life of the individual: "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God".

2. Consumer products tend to be characterized by wastefulness and extravagance, notably in the case of the fashion and catering industries.

3. Consumer products tend to lack the aesthetic qualities of hand-crafted objects and are frequently ugly and lacking in taste.

4. Consumer society is based on the exploitation of workers under the capitalist system of production. It then also serves as an opiate of the people by submerging dissatisfaction with life in the exploitative workplace.

5. Under the spell of the dominant culture we have forgotten what happiness is, what fulfillment is, which is to participate consciously in the beauty and drama of life on earth and with each other. So we have turned to ersatz happiness -- consuming stuff. This gets us into a positive feedback loop: the more we experience our alienation and loss of connection and dissatisfaction, the more we try to consume, and the more we consume, the less it satisfies.

6. This is the so-called civilization of "consumption" or " consumerism ," which involves so much "throwing-away" and "waste." An object already owned but now superseded by something better is discarded, with no thought of its possible lasting value in itself, nor of some other human being who is poorer. All of us experience firsthand the sad effects of this blind submission to pure consumerism: in the first place a crass materialism, and at the same time a radical dissatisfaction, because one quickly learns -- unless one is shielded from the flood of publicity and the ceaseless and tempting offers of products -- that the more one possesses the more one wants, while deeper aspirations remain unsatisfied and perhaps even stifled. (Papal Encyclical, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 30 December 1987).

1. Abundance and choice provide a feeling of security, social and even spiritual comfort.

2. In the face of a much colder economic climate, the psychological props to rising consumption that have held for a generation could be collapsing. The 1950s, which launched the affluent society, was not only a period of full employment, it was a period in which the generality of consumers could feel that a social contract had been struck that underwrote their security. Vaccinations dispelled fear of disease; while pensions, sick pay and unemployment insurance buttressed people in their optimism that tomorrow would be better than today. You could save less; you could borrow and spend. Thus was the consumer society born. But the old rules have been sundered. Employment can no longer be counted on; diseases are reappearing; pensions are being cut; the economy is decoupled again from general prosperity and locked in a systemic crisis for which no one has the key.

(D) Detailed problems