Capitalism and the Holidays

According to studies done by the National Retail Federation, holiday retail sales have increased year-over-year since 2008. In 2021 alone, holiday sales spiked up 14.1 percent, racking up $109.4 billion dollars. The rapid increase of holiday spending is due to a lot of different factors including things like inflation, nostalgia, and overall societal pressure. However, more than any of those, the holidays are fueled by American Consumer Culture. In theory, the holidays are a time to take a break and celebrate with family, friends and loved ones. However, with gifting and feasting, inextricably comes the purchase of commodities at an incredibly high rate to meet the holiday demands. Companies take advantage of this and use sneaky practices to pressure you into spending more than you need and due to this, the holidays have become less of a time to be merry, and more of a struggle to compete in a demanding consumerist world.  

The biggest example of this is Black Friday. Originally, Black Friday was coined on September 24, 1869, to refer to the date of a financial panic in the US sparked by gold speculators. Financier Jay Gould and railway businessman James Fisk attempted to corner the gold market, which ultimately resulted in financial panic and the collapse of the market. Today, the day refers to a day of discounts from retailers. Technically, it is not unlike any other day of the calendar year, aside from the fact that it is the day after Thanksgiving and some people may take the day off. Rampant consumerism forced upon by businesses and companies to increase their profits, however, have turned the day into absolute mayhem. It’s not only debilitating towards the consumers, but to the retail workers as well. It also speaks volumes about how we treat each other as people, as it would never be acceptable on any other day of the year to push, shove, and trample others to get a product on sale, so it begs the question as to why people can put their moral values aside to participate in Black Friday.  

This shows how America exists in a consumerist culture due to its capitalist economic structure with no holds bound to big business owners and CEOs. The holidays are not the cause of consumerism, but a tool for these people to make the rest of us fork over more of our money to add to their stash. These moral-stripped actions during these times show how far we have fallen to the whims of the one percent. People now feel a need to buy at least some of their products from big businesses, who may exploit workers at some level, and who may encourage destructive practices like Black Friday sales which perpetuate our consumerist culture under capitalism.  

The conclusion you should take from this is that there is not ethical consumption under capitalism; the only answer is to completely rework the system into one in which people have what they need and do not want in a way that pushes them to trample others for material possessions, and into one in which big businesses do not hold the American people in the palm of their hands.