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Italy: A Consumer Story

March 3, 2012 • GLOBAL ECONOMY, CULTURE & LIFESTYLE, Europe, Personal Finance

By Emanuela Scarpellini

Can we go on consuming as we do today, perhaps even more so? Would it not be better to devise a consumer model that is more thrifty and balanced, maybe on the lines of yesteryear?

One unexpected consequence of the long crisis besetting many Western countries is that we are rethinking certain mechanisms underlying market economies. Some advocate revising the rules governing the finance markets, the role of States in welfare and fostering growth, the channels of international cooperation on economic affairs, and so forth. To others, this is a signal of structural crisis calling for an outright revolution: degrowth, meaning producing less and consuming less. Even where rapidly expanding countries are concerned, like China, India or Brazil, the present is a delicate moment. We may well worry whether our planet will be able to sustain an increase in consumption spreading to millions and millions more inhabitants (who understandably wish to satisfy the same needs as Westerners). The question that hangs over us, in short, is can we go on consuming as we do today, perhaps even more so? Would it not be better to devise a consumer model that is more thrifty and balanced, maybe on the lines of yesteryear?

Will our planet be able to sustain an increase in consumption spreading to millions and millions more inhabitants? One approach to these questions may be to look at consumer patterns from a historical perspective.

It is hard to find an answer (witness the differing “recipes” that have so far been put forward). Perhaps the first approach to the issue should be to question the true significance of consumerism in our lives. How much does it count? What is essential, what superfluous? What impact does it have on the economy, politics, consumers themselves?

 
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