Consumerism In The 19th Century

Good Essays
In the latter half of the 19th century, the Second Industrial Revolution produced new engineering and science-based technology, such as railroads, petroleum, and the assembly line, which allowed large corporations to produce, and export, enormous quantities of goods at a faster rate than before. While transforming the American economy for the better, these new inventions drastically changed our society as massive quantities of low cost products became accessible to all, and coupled with a rapid growing population, it ushered in a new era of Mass Consumption. This era essentially changed the United States from a work-based society to a consumer society as people raised the question ‘Why have the old model?’. Soon enough this philosophy led people…show more content…
In a 1996 congressional testimony, National Labor Committee executive, Charles Kernaghan, led an expose on Kathie Lee Gifford when he revealed “that child laborers in Honduras were making the Gifford clothing line sold at Wal-Mart” (Duke). This realization caused Gifford to dissolve into tears and, over time, use her brand in the fight against corporate practices. For a while, these protestors were able to make a difference as many corporations were began to specify which companies were making their clothes, adopted codes of conduct, and “relied on monitors who visited factories once every three months and conducted random inspections” (Colliver). However, these socially conscious changes aren’t structured “to make factories take better care of their workers. They’re designed to make factories look like they are” (Hobbes). In reality, the factory inspections and audits are essentially, as Hobbes describes it, a “paperwork exercise”, as inspectors usually spend two days maximum at each factory, mostly checking time sheets for shift lengths, birth certificates for child labor, and pay stubs for wages. In addition to this, most manufacturers, particularly those in China and Southeast Asia, are experts in bypassing regulations “by keeping multiple sets of books, hiding cramped…show more content…
As we continue to pour money into the massive corporations, that mass produce the materials we use on a daily basis, outsource their manufacturing plants to foreign countries with the intention of utilizing the cheap labor available. While providing foreign countries, such as China, Bangladesh, India, etc., with numerous jobs, large corporations have given these countries the opportunity to be included in, and expand, the global economy. However with activists such as Ed Finn, who passionately encourage that Americans pay attention to what they buy and conduct meaningless boycotts, will force these large corporations to follow a society-wide consensus that tells companies how they should operate their developing-country factories. Blind to the fact that their insufficient boycotts are in support of crushing opportunities for others, activists don’t seem to realize
Get Access