“I buy, therefore I am”: Descartes’ Cogito in its twenty-first century version. Once, “being”was a matter of metaphysics and theology. Nowadays, in order to be something, one must have something. The classic ontological dilemma has turned into an economic one.
From a microscopic perspective, it can be said that the roots of impulse buying lie in capitalism’s leitmotiv: exchange of goods and services via money so as to reap profit. The question is: how to make people eager to buy new things? Firstly, by means of creating needs, or in other words, pseudo needs, which would keep assembly lines working. If one is not trendy enough based on so-called “media standards”, he or she must catch up with other people in order to be accepted by the group. Secondly, via planned obsolescence, which is a fancy expression for the fact that things are deliberately produced to last a predetermined amount of time, thus justifying their replacement. Impulse buying would be just an euphemism for sheer consumerism.
It is safe to say that a plethora of consequences stem from impulse buying. Never-ending debts have become part of people’s daily routines, taking control of their minds and jeopardizing their moments of leisure. Psychological issues may derive from an addictive urge to consume, making people unsatisfied for not being able to fulfill an everlasting crave for more.
Consumerism can also be analyzed from a sociological standpoint. According to the late Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman, not only are things consumed, but people as well. They are deemed as mere objects, means to an end, “objectified” as Karl Marx has put in in Das Kapital. In a nutshell, we are eager to use our counterparts as much as we can and the moment we realize they have lost their utility, they are immediately discarded.
All in all, impulse buying is a contemporary disease from which we still have not found the cure. Consumerism and impulse buying are basically two peas in a pod: the latter is the realization of the former on a personal level. Hence, human beings are doomed to consume as long as they live in a society whose main concern revolves around magical pieces of paper and metal revered as deities.
Bauman, Z. (2015). Liquid modernity (First ed.). Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.
Descartes, R. (1986). Discourse on method (First ed.). New York: Macmillan.
Marx, K. (1985). Capital (First ed.). (London): Penguin Books.