Consumer Culture and the Rise of the Post-War Family

Consumer Culture and the Rise of the Post-War Family

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Consumer culture is termed as a form of capitalism whereby the economy puts most emphasis on selling consumer goods as well as spending the consumer money. A perfect example of a consumer culture is the United States. The most important aspect of the culture is the focus put to lifestyle as well as using material products to achieve desired happiness and satisfaction. The consumer culture came almost at the same time as a significant change witnessed in families after the WWII. After the war, the concept of the traditional family was forgotten as time raised new family models that comprised of professionals, immigrants, and working-class natives.

The traditional concept of families was different to todays in that traditionally, men saw and utilized their wives and children as property. On the other hand, today’s families are inclined under the veil of neutrality. Here, men and women have different defined roles whereby each has their duties and responsibilities to one another and to the children, thus forgetting the traditional notion of societal families. The transition from the traditional to today’s families took time and much effort and dedication from the parents, and the economy. For instance, the WWII soldiers returned home after the war and settled on peaceful jobs meaning the economy changed from producing war equipment to producing products that promoted pleasant peacetime life. The now renewed and rich economy led to many changes such as more income and more immigrants.

Many people bought newly-built homes in the suburbs after relocating from cities and small towns. The population grew drastically, living conditions became easier, and many job vacancies presented, factors that propelled people to feel the need to have a family and security. The timing of the start of the consumerism culture was the same as the start of the change in how families were structured (Arnould and Thompson, 2005). In fact, the consumerism in the US was boosted by the change in how people understood and ran families. The era came with love-based marriages system, a very different system from the traditional system where men ran every family affair and business as women and children sat and witnessed.

The new system promoted stability and meeting of the individual needs and desires by the marriage partner and their children. According to the traditional concept of marriages, the process was a powerful tool of converting strangers into relatives. In addition, marriages extended corporative relations beyond the small ties that bind people by blood by creating more and far reaching networks that involved in laws. Although love was still felt at this time, it was not the motivating factor in marriages as marriage was an economic and political institution (Stephanie, 2005) structured for the benefit of the entire extended family and the community.

After the war, the concept of marriage changed so that most if not all marriages were driven by love between two people. This came the pursuit of ‘good and better life’ by engaging in practices called consumerism. Consumerism has since gone on and dominated many cultures and it spread and overcame the ever-tied restrictions of religion, gender, nationality, and ethnicity. The concept operates under the notion that the marketplace has a task of ensuring social justice via not only fair but also equal economic practices (Swagler, 1994).

In conclusion, the consumer culture and the post-war family types are connected in that both came and grew at the same time. In fact, the two factors drove one another towards new levels as consumers spend more on products in order to protect and save the new formed ties of families. This drove the traditional notion of families towards extinction, a trend witnessed spreading and influencing across many cultures today.


Arnould, E. & Thompson, C. (2005). Consumer Culture Theory. Twenty Years of Research. Journal of Consumer Research 31 (4) 868-82

Stephanie, C. (2005). The Radical Idea of Marrying for Love. Sociology: Exploring the Architecture of Everyday Life. Sage Publication Newman and O’Brien.

Swagler, R. (1994). Evolutions and Applications of the Term Consumerism: Theme and Variations. Journal of Consumer Affairs.