The Nature of Consumption
Consumption involves a broad slice of human activity. It is concerned with all phases of the using up of goods and services in living. Thus, we may be said to be consuming when we are eating food, sleeping on a bed, visiting the doctor or going to school. But there are other aspects of consumption.
Relationship Between Consumption and Production
A consumption process which gives little satisfaction to consumers produces individuals in society who lack energy and therefore, the will to work. Whereas a process of production, with little or no waste of goods produced, is likely to lead to greater satisfaction to consumers. This, in turn, will produce relatively more healthy individuals, who will be better equipped to take part in the productive processes in society. In this sense consumption is closely linked with production.
The Definition of Consumptions
Consumption is generally defined as the use of goods and services to give satisfaction to the consumer.
The Areas of Consumption
They are: (i) The household or family.
(ii) Agencies of the government at national, state and local levels.
(iii) Manufacturing and business establishments.
(iv) Various non-profit organisations such as voluntary association, private schools, hospitals, and religious and charitable organisation.
The Level of Consumption
The level of consumption is described by a composite or aggregate of the list of goods and services acquired in the market and actually consumed. It is expressed in one number which provides a convenient means for ranking different planes of consumption. The level of living is described by a composite or aggregate of all items which comprise the plane of living. It is an expression of the plane of living in one number or value. The standard of consumption is described by the list of goods and services that may be acquired in the market which people think they should consume. It is a normative concept in that it refers to what ought to be rather than what is, as in the case of plane or level. The standard of living is described by a list of goods, services and condition which the individual or group strives to attain, to maintain if once attained and to regain if lost. It is a normative concept describing how the individual or group believes he or she ought to be living.
To summarise these ideas, 'plane of living' is a more inclusive concept than 'plane of consumption'. But in either case 'plane' and 'level' refer to items actually consumed. Similarly, 'standard of living' is a broader concept than 'standard of consumption' but in either case 'standard' refers to some derived performance. A standard of living may be viewed as a level of living which people feel belongs to them.
Patterns of Consumption in Pre-industrial Societies
Sociologists and social anthropologists usually classify the economies of the world, into five types (1) hunting and food gathering, (2) 'herding' (3) horticulture, (4) agriculture and (5) factory-industrialism. In the fust four types, groups are normally organised for both production and consumption on the basis of kinship, and.there is consequently little separation of the two function in organisation, that is, the family is the basic unit of both production and consumption. In industrial societies, on the other hand, there is a separation of the production and consumption units as they are organised on different principles. The major consumption unit of final products is still the family although other institutions such as the government also becomes an important consumer. While markets are of less importance in the first four
types of economics, production and consumption units are linked through the mechanism of
the market under factory-industrialism.
Social and Cultural Aspects of Consumption
A major factor that has rendered the study of consumption difficult in some of the preindustrial societies has been the absence of a pecuniary standard of value, whereby the worth of resources assigned to various ends can be calculated and the resultant planes of living of a people effectively described. Certain methodological problems were indicated by researchers in their attempts to calculate the exact quantity of.food the households consumed, how much was given away or wasted and how much received. If we turn to the traditions which determine the consumption of goods in non-industrial
cultures, we are confronted with some surprises. Food, the most fundamental necessity of life offers the most striking case in point. Even the consumption of this elementary necessity is found to be influenced by ideas of what is and what is not suitable for human nourishment. A comparable selectivity is found in clothing also by considering the differences not only in style but also in the materials that differentiate the clothing of the two sexes. It is easy to recognise how arbitrarily the selections are made from the available supply of goods. Besides the questions of nourishment and individual taste, patterns of food consumption involves the factor of prestige also. Foods must be served to guests in order to maintain a
particular social status, regardless of what may be eaten in private. Further, it is held shameful if a man has to send to the market for food with which to entertain unexpected guests. Also the utilisation of goods for ritual purpose and, in particular ceremonial consumption so as to gain prestige, are among the most important and consistent elements in the use of available foods resources in many pre-industrial societies.
Consumption in Industrial Societies
Many of the things consumed by modem people in industrial societies are no longer produced at home and the efforts of family members are focused instead on earning a living. Buying is the process through which the varied output of industries must somehow flow to provide acceptable standards of health, possessions and happiness to the members of the society. It is the negotiation of this exchange of money for goods and services that reveal what we call the problems of consumption. We try and balance our income with the necessary items and extra comforts that we require in life. Science, technology, improved merchandising, extension of personal credit facilities. Rising standards of living has created outright, brought into volume production, or raised to the position of necessities of life, a long list of new goods and services. These involve new standard of health, child rearing, comfort, convenience, cleanliness, travel and variety of living. Along with these, there is also a measure of one-up
man ship in most societies where consumption pattern denotes your social status.
Factors Affecting Consumption in Industrial Societies
i) Availability of Choice- The consumer's problem now is one of selection to a degree never before known.
ii) Amount of Income- The consumer's ability to buy goods depends on the money he has. Availability of consumer credit widens their range and flexibility of buying power. The instalment and small loan
facilities allow a common consumer to buy expensive goods.
iii) Family Size
The size of the family is one of the predominant factors affecting the balance among expenditures. Studies conducted on family consistently reveal the declining size of the family unit, particularly in an urban environment, which facilitates a rise in consumption levels over the rural people.
iv) Availability of Goods
v) Merchandising Practices i) to create awareness among consumers, ii) to break down consumer resistance, iii) to create consumer acceptance, and iv) to create consumer demand.vi) Consumer Literacy