The Brave New World As A Consumerism Society

“Money does not buy happiness” is a common saying throughout history. Although material goods can be bought in large quantities, they can’t satisfy the person’s natural need for connection and love. These objects can be a poor attempt to fill a gap in a person’s life. This ideal was lost in 1920s society as it became more dependent on consumerism. Shopaholics became addicted to shopping, which led to a rise in happiness standards. Aldous Huxley was affected by the growth of the retail market and realized the negative impact it had upon society. Huxley’s Brave New World depicts a dystopian world in which mass consumerism will continue. Huxley wanted his novel to warn the public about the dangers of consumerism and ensure his dystopia doesn’t become a reality.

Huxley’s novel illustrated an assembly line that makes human beings, instead of cars. Bokanovsky’s assembly line process allows one egg to “become any number of eight-to ninety-six embryos” (Huxley 4,). The World State produces people continuously as material items like Ford’s Model-T car. Ford’s method of human reproduction makes life seem mechanical and less personal. Because humans are created and live their lives unfeelingly, it makes Brave New World an emotionally weak society. Ford’s ability of making multiple genetic beings from a single gene greatly diminishes life’s value. The World State views people as objects that society can use while they’re alive and well. However, when they cease to be useful, Ford is the leading manufacturer of automobiles in the 20th century. The assembly line was his invention that made it possible to produce thousands of Model-Ts. Huxley was inspired by his ability to produce identical products in a fast and efficient manner. Huxley’s novel portrayed his belief in the decline of morality as technology and consumerism grew. People’s priorities in the 1920s were to buy new products and contribute to the market. People began to shop more frequently as goods became more common. It was becoming society’s favourite activity. Sharon Beder, a writer, described how shopping became a “leisure activity” that allowed people to “escape real life” (45). Consumption flourished and replaced familial obligations. People chose to shop, and be in their consumerist paradise, rather than spending time with friends and family. As civilization advanced, sentimentality was no longer important. The 1920s society were obsessed with the assembly lines and consumerism. Huxley illustrated an alternate world in which the assemblyline is the source and foundation of human life. To warn people about the dangers and consequences of consumerism. Brave New World shows that after being engineered, humans undergo conditioning to become the ideal citizen of the World State. Conditioning is used to ensure that civilization remains in a structured way. Children undergo electric shocks to learn how to “hate the nation” and “love all countries sports.” They also have to learn how to consume “manufactured [d] articles as much as transport” (Huxley16). Conditioning is a method of manipulating people to continue buying goods and only care about consumerism. World Controllers see conditioning as justified because society would crumble if it ended. The benefits of consumerism are not realized because it is something that citizens have been taught from a young age. To prevent people from straying from the society’s norms, World Controllers use consumerism in order to distract them. Instead of questioning whether the World State is ethical or fair, people are made to think about consumerism. Consumption has been made a continuous cycle by producers and corporations. Through the use of installment plans and credit, companies made it possible for people to purchase goods even when they didn’t have sufficient funds. People could continue to buy goods without worrying about not being able pay full price (“A Consumer Economy”) thanks to the idea of “buy now and pay later”. The population grew in debt to manufacturers as they were able to buy many goods on credit and through payment plans. People became reckless and couldn’t pay the goods they bought. This led to producers demanding that they be paid. Corporations allowed installment and credit plans to help them achieve their “goal [of] trap[ping] consumer in the world of consume” (Spierings, Houtum 902). In order to improve their product sales, companies deceived the public by glorifying credit cards and installment plans. Huxley’s Brave New World showed how manufacturers failed to care about consumers in the 1920s. Instalment plans and credit were used to manipulate the public into continuing to purchase goods. Instalment plans and credit were not created to allow shoppers to buy more products but to make it easier for them to owe money. Many people fall under the thumbs of manufacturers, while corporations make false claims that they are providing consumers with better opportunities. Huxley advised people not to waste their money on unnecessary items, believing that payment plans and credit were helpful. Instalment plans and credit created a vicious circle where corporations got rich from the sale of consumer goods, while consumers lost their financial security. Soma is another important aspect of the World State’s ability to maintain social order. Consumption is an integral part of the World State’s function. World Controllers use Soma to keep the people buying goods and to prevent civilization from crumbling. Soma provides pleasure to its users, and keeps the public from wandering away from their fantasies. The World Controllers can make the population “docile” by using soma. They also ensure compliance with society’s norms and their conditioning. Soma makes people more flexible and puts them in a world of pleasure and comfort. They then shop blindly because “nothing else matters” (Sawyer 82). The reason people shop is not a mystery to them. However, soma-induced minds can make them believe that shopping is their only choice and the only activity they should be doing. The World Controllers manipulate people through soma. This drug makes them believe that shopping is their purpose, but in reality, it is the World Controllers who control their lives. Advertisements, such as the World State’s soma, drove consumerism in the 1920s. Because people were constantly exposed and encouraged to shop, commercials helped them continue to be consumerists. Advertisements made products more appealing to encourage people to purchase them. Advertisers created demand through product promotions. Advertisements were used by companies to persuade people to continue buying useless items. Huxley used soma from Brave New World as a metaphor for the impact of advertisements on the public during the 1920s. People continued to purchase goods based upon the exaggerated benefits they saw in advertisements. To sell their merchandise, manufacturers portrayed their products as glamorous. Rarely did the goods live up to their promises. Manufacturers did not care about the product’s performance or price, but were more focused on selling their merchandise. Huxley showed the public through Brave New World that advertising was only a tool to create a stimuli. Advertisements allowed producers to make a lot of money and help the market. He wanted people to see through the lies in advertising and used Brave New World’s influence to help him do this. Soma isn’t the only thing that causes the World State to purchase goods. Huxley 37 says that the mantra “ending IS better than mending” significantly contributes to the growth in consumerism. Brave New World citizens are insatiable for new clothing and will continue to purchase them. Any item they consider to be outdated or marginally used is thrown out and replaced with a new one. Because a damaged item is no longer functional and therefore has little value, people will choose products that can be easily repaired. The cost of buying new products can reduce creativity and innovation. It also prevents people from forming emotional attachments with their objects. As old and broken objects are continually discarded, society remains dull and emotionally-detached. The World State is driven by the principle that “ending IS better than mending” and suppresses creativity, deep emotions, and consumption of goods. The ’20s saw an endless production of goods. There were always new products being released. People would purchase the “brand new,” “just released” radio to get the best sound quality. However, they would never be able to achieve their goal because the next day would bring out a “best” radio. Consumerism was encouraged by the public’s need for new products. This led to people continuing to purchase more and more items “for the continual production of new needs that defined and drew attention to consumerism” (Spierings and Houtum 1990). In an effort to increase sales and make more money, companies kept making products that were superior to the ones they had before. Huxley shows how unnecessary spending on useless items led to consumerism and encourages corporations to keep releasing duplicitous products. Huxley illustrates how consumers can be hurt by spending money on unnecessary items. Huxley wanted people to understand that rather than continuing to purchase products with slight improvements or falling prey to advertisements, they should be content with what they already have. The World State uses soma to prevent people from having an identity and a sense of their own. People’s minds are moulded to be World State citizens. With soma, they can reject any thought that is contrary to their beliefs. John, an outsider, who was raised on the Savage Reservation, arrives at the World State to rebel against the social order of the World State. He wants to keep and grow his identity. He is eager to learn more about the world and expand his mind to think outside the box of the World Controllers’ ideas. However, the World State’s social standards state that he can “claim the right not to be happy” by following his dreams (Huxley 180). According to the World State, happiness is only possible if people lose their fundamental characteristics that help them develop their identities. People cannot achieve happiness if they lose their opinions and morals. In the 1920s, the rise of consumerism led to people losing their individuality, their unique characteristics, and constructing their identities on the basis of consumerism. Their social status and how others view them determined how they saw themselves, as well as how they perceived their own self-worth. Consumerism was a result of people “shop[ing] for” their “identities” and because identity was turned into a commodity, other shoppers could buy it to obtain the same status (Spierings/Houtum 903). People focused on buying more goods than they valued their individuality. Consumption compelled society into focusing on material objects and made it believe that insubstantial items were essential for living a happy and fulfilled life. Steven White, however, explains how consumers can feel fulfilled by “consumerism”, but that this satisfaction is ultimately a social rather than an individual one (91). Huxley shows how materialistic possessions should not be the basis of happiness or identity with Brave New World. Material possessions don’t make people who they are, and spending money and time on them only creates the illusion of being more powerful. Huxley advised people to put their effort and time into enhancing their identities to achieve true happiness. The World Controllers set high standards for people, but they ignore the elements that make them unique. Huxley was inspired to show his beliefs behind Brave New World’s components by the frenzied consumerism of the 1920s. In the 20th century, consumerism was on the rise. Greedy manufacturers began manipulating customers to increase their wealth. Identity, happiness, and even our happiness were dependent upon materialism. Huxley saw the changes in society due to consumerism and illustrated them through his novel. Huxley made a dystopian vision of the consequences of consumerism by creating a dystopian environment. Huxley wanted to show the absurd effects of consumerism through Brave New World. This was to help the public see the light in the dark shadow of consumerism and change their perception of contentment. Cited sources

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    Sean Evans is a 29-year-old school teacher and blogger who resides in Utah. Sean is an advocate for education and believes that every child has the right to a quality education. In addition to teaching, Sean also enjoys writing and has a blog where he discusses various topics related to education. Sean is an active member of the community and is always looking for ways to help others.