And she's buying a stairway to heaven.
When she gets there she knows, if the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for.
Ooh, ooh, and she's buying a stairway to heaven."
From "Stairway To Heaven", by Led Zeppelin
Shopping malls didn't just happen. They are not the result of wise planners deciding that suburban people, having no social life and stimulation, needed a place to go (Bombeck, 1985). The mall was originally conceived of as a community center where people would converge for shopping, cultural activity, and social interaction (Gruen & Smith, 2005). It is safe to say that the mall has achieved and surpassed those early expectations. Unfortunately, in today's consumer culture, the mall is the center of the universe and and this has shaped consumers in a negative way.
In contrast to the original concept of providing the consumer with greater choice, the mall actually limits the choices of the suburb shopper. The consumer is forced to go to the mall to full-fill shopping needs, but, once inside, also made to feel guilty if they do not make any purchases. The mall promotes materialism and superficiality, a sense of bought self-worth and artificial happiness.
Housing shortages and increased mobility (car) allowed families to move away from the city and into the suburbs. These areas were designed to be self-contained, pre-packaged communities with schools, parks, homes, etc within close proximity of each other. Not far from jobs in the city, the suburbs provided the safe, enclosed realm ideal for raising families. The only problem was the fact that most stores were downtown and too far for mothers (who did most of the shopping) to driv...
... middle of paper ...
...y, advocates this cycle of earning money, spending money, and buying happiness.
Overall, the malls promote a sense of superficiality, a need to acquire goods for social acceptance, and an emphasis on artificial happiness. Though they began with innocent intentions, the sinister effects of changing societal values has left us in a jeopardizing situation. Our shallow "needs" for consumer goods have weakened society and compromised our position as a close community.
Gruen, V., and Smith, L. (2005), Shopping Towns, U.SA.: The Planning of Shopping Centers. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.
May, Elaine Tyler. Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era. Basic Books, 2008.
Miller, Daniel. Capitalism: An Ethnographic Approach. Berg, Oxford. 1997.
Miller, Daniel. A Theory of Shopping. Polity Press, Oxford, 1998.
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