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Born to Buy

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“The United States is the most consumer-oriented society in the world. People work longer hours than in any other industrialized country. Savings rates are lower. Consumer credit has exploded, and roughly a million and a half households declare bankruptcy every year. There are more than 46,000 shopping centers in the country, a nearly two-thirds increase since 1986. Despite fewer people per household, the size of houses continues to expand rapidly, with new construction featuring walk-in closets and three- and four-car garages to store record quantities of stuff. According to my estimates, the average adult acquires forty-eight new pieces of apparel a year. …Americans own more television sets than inhabitants of any other country — nearly one set per person. Observers blame TV for plummeting levels of civic engagement, the dearth of community, and the decline of everyday socializing. Heavy viewing has also resulted in historically unprecedented exposure to commercials. And ads have proliferated far beyond the television screen to virtually every social institution and type of public space, from museums and zoos, to college campuses and elementary school classrooms, restaurant bathrooms and menus, at the airport, even in the sky….

The architects of this culture — the companies that make, market, and advertise consumer products — have now set their sights on children. Although children have long participated in the consumer marketplace, until recently they were bit players, purchasers of cheap goods. They attracted little of the industry’s talent and resources and were approached primarily through their mothers. That has changed. Kids and teens are now the epicenter of American consumer culture. They command the attention, creativity, and dollars of advertisers. Their tastes drive market trends. Their opinions shape brand strategies. Yet few adults recognize the magnitude of this shift and its consequences for the futures of our children and of our culture….

Americans had gotten caught in what I called the cycle of work-and-spend, in which the compensation for longer hours was a rising material standard of living. People were accumulating stuff at an unprecedented rate. Demanding jobs and escalating debt in turn resulted in high levels of stress and enormous pressure on family life. Some tried to buy their way out of the time squeeze by contracting out more household services, jetting off for stress-busting vacations, or finding a massage therapist, strategies that themselves require greater and greater household income…. Americans had come under strong imperatives to keep up with the escalating costs of basics, like health care and education, as well as luxuries, such as branded goods, bigger vehicles, and outlays for leisure and recreation. A trip to Disneyworld became an expensive, but urgent, social norm. Households spent more, saved less, and took on more debt. …

I also studied downshifters — the millions of Americans who were rejecting the work-and-spend lifestyle, opting instead to work less, spend less, and live more simply. As it turned out, they provided a powerful clue to the growing importance of children in consumer culture…. I discovered that downshifters who were raising children were almost impossible to find. At the time, I reasoned that children are expensive or that most parents would not want to impose a regime of reduced consumption on their kids….

Children have become conduits from the consumer marketplace into the household, the link between advertisers and the family purse. Young people are repositories of consumer knowledge and awareness. They are the first adopters and avid users of many of the new technologies. They are the household members with the most passionate consumer desires, and are most closely tethered to products, brands, and the latest trends. Children’s social worlds are increasingly constructed around consuming, as brands and products have come to determine who is “in” or “out,” who is hot or not, who deserves to have friends, or social status. In such a world, how many parents opt to downshift or simplify? It’s a radical step many children don’t welcome.

By 2003, Martin Lindstrom, one of the world’s leading branding gurus, opined that 80 percent of all global brands now required a tween strategy. (Tweens are a marketing category roughly comprising children from first grade to age twelve.) Lindstrom is referring not only to acknowledged tween targeted products such as food, music, fashion, and culture, but also expensive items traditionally thought of as adult oriented, such as consumer electronics, hotels, and cars. For example, his findings suggest that 40 percent of urban tweens worldwide are strongly attached to particular car brands and that 30 percent of their parents ask them for advice on car purchases….”


“Born to Buy
The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture”
By Juliet B. Schor


  1. S těmi dětmi to sedí. Ale to už se v záp. zemích ví zhruba přes 15 let.

  2. Je to šílené, ale věřím tomu. Bohužel naši mladí lidé se k tomuto trendu blíží.