With the advent of the assembly line in America, and other modern innovations, workers found themselves with more free time.

“In their spare time, people went to the movies and gathered in stadiums to watch professional sports.  In 1926, the first radio networks were established.

“Inventions, such as the car, radio and movies, opened the doors to a previously unknown world.  The optimism of the 1920s in America was fueled by the emerging mass media empire, the advertising industry and the corporations that marketed illusions of fulfillment.

“Workers found themselves with more money, and due to the puritan background, they saved diligently.

“Yet, in order for businesses to increase sales and grow profits, they had to rid workers of traditional values and attitudes toward thrift and prudence, and nurture of qualities like wastefulness, self-indulgence, and artificial obsolescence.

“American advertisers constantly told them that those were the fruits of success, which was what life was all about.  By the mid 1920s innovations in industry led to supply outstripping demand, and problems of scarcity were replaced by problems of how to create more demand.

“Over-production and lack of consumer desire was blamed for recession in America. More goods were being produced than a population with set habits and means wanted or needed.

“There were two schools of thought about how this problem should be solved.  One was that work hours should be decreased and the economy stabilized so that production met current needs.  The opposing view, mainly held by business people and economists, was that overproduction could and should be solved by increasing consumption so that economic growth could continue.

“American manufacturers needed to continually expand production so as to increase their profits.  “Others warned that a five-day week would undermine the work ethic by giving more time for leisure.  If work took up less of the day, it would be less important in peoples’ lives.

“They also feared that given extra free time, people might become radicals.  Commoners have to be kept at their desks and machines, lest they rise up against their betters.’

“It was important that leisure was not an alternative to work and an opportunity to reflect on life, but rather a time for consumption.  At the same time, leisure had to be subordinate to work and importantly, a reason to work.

“And so the end result is a country, not just any culture, but the richest nation on the planet: The United States, that wants nothing more than to buy goods that require the precious resources of the Earth, are built with planned obsolescence in mind, and in turn pollute the environment to an unsustainable degree,.

Consumption helps sublimate and redirect urges that might otherwise be expressed politically or aggressively.  To those who cannot change their whole lives or occupations, even a new dress is often a relief.

“It is only as purchasers, or shoppers that workers are treated with the courtesy worthy of a human being.  What mattered in getting ahead and influencing people was the impression a person made on others.  Ordinary people could enjoy the same products and goods that the people at the top did.”

“Even as bankruptcy and financial debt increased, consumers continue marching to the discount stores, trading their wages for things that will be worth less or worthless by the next season.  What we know today as conspicuous consumption.

“In America, advertisers are merchants of discontent who take advantage of the upgrading urge that people feel.  With the help of installment plans and credit, they could purchase the signifiers of success.  Advertising was so successful that people began diverting funds from savings into the purchase of a car or home that would enhance their status.

“The idea that there were limits on consumer wants began to be eclipsed by the idea that such wants could endlessly be created.

“The American barons of industry asked themselves, ‘If such benefit could be derived by 9-5 control, what could be done by 5-9 control.

“And that was when consumerism was taken to the next level: bank loans, purchases on margin, credit cards, constant, redundant TV commercials,” Manuel went on.  “Businesses instilled a psychological and physiological need in people for ‘things.’  Workers were told what to make in the day and what to buy in the evenings and on weekends.

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