Thursday, April 7, 2011

Shop Or You'll Drop

Episode 5 of Niall Ferguson's series on Civilization makes an interesting case for the virtues of consumerism. Apparently it was blue jeans that brought down the Berlin Wall and won over Maoist China to the ways of capitalism. It's an interesting hypothesis, along with the others set out in Ferguson's series. Though I must admit I prefer the original Civilisation (note the 's') by Kenneth Clark. More Eurocentric perhaps, but a lot more satisfying somehow.

Still, there's something to the consumerism = civilisation thesis. Yes, it is somewhat galling to suggest that 'retail therapy' is the ultimate purpose of Western Civilisation (as Ferguson wryly observes towards the end of the episode), but maybe it's at least part of the purpose? After all, a recent study showed that people over 65 who shopped every day are 27% less likely to die over a ten year period of observation than those who shopped less likely. Shopping and consumerism may well add to the longevity of Western citizens and not just to that of Western civilisation.

Though I think I'll personally keep testing the null hypothesis in relation to shopping and longevity for a while longer...


  1. Errr, correlation and causality? How about people over 65 that shop everyday are likely to be wealthier and therefore better able to afford heating, food, medicine etc. thereby making it more of an expression of inequality?

  2. Liking the shopping statistic, might just have to use that ....mmmm ....... everyday ...


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