chapter  3
The desire for the new Its nature and social location as presented in theories of fashion
Pages 15

Theories of modern consumerism generally stress its dependence on the presence of a continuing desire for the new on the part of consumers, identifying this as the feature which most distinguishes it from more traditional patterns. Indeed, the central dynamic of modern consumerism is seen to be closely related to this desire, especially as it is manifested in the institution of fashion, and hence credited with accounting for the extraordinarily high levels of demand for goods and services in contemporary societies. Thus, to understand modern consumerism means to understand the nature, origin and functioning of the processes through which novelty is continuously created, introduced into society and then disseminated through all social classes. 2 It follows from this that a satisfactory theory of modern consumerism must explain (a) the mechanisms which serve to ensure the continuous supply of cultural novelty which is embodied in products and services; (b) the nature and social location of the group whose valuation of the new is so strong as to overcome the inertial forces of tradition and conservatism and hence act as a channel through which novelty can enter society; (c) the associated ethic or body of moral thought which can serve to justify such innovations; and (d) the motives of the larger population which impel them to prefer the new to the familiar and hence desire new products.