Consumerism seems to be the main characteristic of all developed societies over at least the last four decades. Developing societies are encouraged to proceed towards the same predominance of consumerist values over all other kinds of values. The prevailing assumption is that the more consumerist a country is the more developed it proves to be. Counter all expectations, this tendency does not apply in full scale to the new democracies and new markets in Central and Eastern Europe. Strangely enough, this is due not to their under developed character but just the opposite: these societies have outrun the mature consumerist countries in Old Europe as well as those in the other parts of the World. Abundant evidence shows that the less consumerist attitude of New Europe is not a sign of lagging behind the examples of prosperity but a firm mark of being in advance of them in a state that can be reasonably defined as post-consumerism. By the same quirk of fate, the just emerging democracies in the Middle East are being accepted in the bosom of post-consumerist situation skipping, like their fellows in the Eastern and Central Europe, the properly consumerist phase.
The above observations could not only be of theoretical significance, but can acquire a very tangible impact on investors, lenders, donors, etc. intending to deal with these parts of the World. Moreover, the interpretation of investment policies in the developed countries cannot avoid being affected by the notion of post-consumerist society. The difference between these two types of society can be perceived by the basic indicators determining each of them. While in making sense of a consumerist society of prime importance would be purchasing power index, GDP level, and availability of skilled labor; in understanding a post-consumerist society, another type of indicators appears in the foreground. Among them can be identified the average life expectance, density of the population, general mortality and morbidity, vaccination and infectious disease prevention culture, alcohol and drug abuse patterns, GP and nurses per capita and so on. The importance of the illiteracy rate increases tremendously while the percentage of the high school and college graduates turns out to be relatively insignificant.
Apparently, neither production nor consumption have disappeared in the current epoch but their status is transformed into byproducts or side effects of post-consumerist life. The withdrawal of consumerist values does not result in highlighting moral, religious, intellectual or aesthetic ones. Rather, the delusion that consumption determines the sense of life is still dominant but for the functioning of a given society the role of consumption is negligible. That is why an adequate analysis of the newest tendencies in any society around the globe can safely ignore consumerism indicators and concentrate on post-consumerist components.
By Alexander L. Gungov, Ph.D. Senior Consultant