The Crisis of Consumerism

During the past quarter-century, but especially in the five years before 2008, the world revolved around the American consumer - and American-style consumerism. But consumerism, with its reliance on radical, debt-fueled individualism, is no longer sustainable, particularly given that satisfaction from buying objects is short-lived and requires continued repetition.

FLORENCE – Major economic crises are inevitably also structural milestones. There is no simple return to a pre-crisis normalcy. Something changes permanently. As we learned in 2009, patterns of expectations and demand take a new shape.

Our current crisis is not simply a blowback effect of financial globalization. Financial globalization misfired because it took a bet on a type of economy that was becoming unsustainable. During the past quarter-century, but especially over the five years leading up to 2008, the world seemed to revolve around the American consumer. 

American-style consumption offered a new model of economic development. It inspired widespread emulation. Over the course of a few decades, major city centers across the world began to resemble each other much more closely, with the same brands, designs, and lifestyles. Consumption or, more precisely, consumerism , appeared to be globalized.

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