What is globalisation?

Although difficult to define, globalisation in simple terms is the advancement of technologies to improve the spread of goods and services on an international scale. Globalisation involves economic, political, technological, social-cultural, and environmental processes worldwide that raise issues of inequality within and between societies. A “reconfiguration of social geography”; globalisation is characterised by connectivity which ultimately increases the mobility of goods and services globally. The concept of globalisation is marked by features such as the compression of the world, society as a network, as well as privatisation and deregulation. These features allow for social phenomena such as global capitalism, ‘McDonaldisation’, Americanisation and Neoliberalism.

What is consumer culture?

Consumer culture consists of social phenomena allowed by the features of globalisation. Goods are simultaneously produced worldwide for mass consumption and consumed with ignorance towards the unique local cultures being eliminated and appropriated. Unknown workers produce goods for unknown buyers on a large scale, with consumers deceived by advertisements drenched in false practicability and empty promises, all of which create individuals oblivious to what goes on behind the scenes.

The consequences of consumer culture.

There are countless consequences linked to consumer culture and subsequently, globalisation. The food we consume and the clothes we wear are more than likely produced by immigrant workers enslaved by debt bondage, human trafficked by lures of false promises of legal work and wages too good to be true, trapped with their passports confiscated. Whether it be sweatshops or food chain slavery, unexpecting individuals are forced to work in harsh conditions and live in poor and unhygienic facilities. No matter the circumstance, there is a high chance that workers are exploited through slave labour, abused and sexually harassed and potentially further inequality surrounding pay between male and female workers. The concept of conflict theory remains to be a prominent theme throughout these modern-day examples, thoroughly highlighting a clear division between the bourgeoisie (wealthy class) and proletariat (working class). 

What can I do?

As an individual who up until recent years did not have any concerns or conscious thoughts on globalisation, I know that I contributed to the negative implications. Globalisation benefits many people, particularly those in “First World” countries, having all the goods and services they could ever need at the tap of a screen on a smart device. However, the accessibility and continuous advances often delude people into ignoring the negative effects their interests in fast fashion and global cuisine may have on others internationally.

Recently, fast fashion and mass consumption have been thrown into the spotlight, and I became uncomfortable when I discovered I was far more ignorant about slave labour than I had thought. Buying second-hand clothing and “Australian-made” food is not sufficient, as second-hand items still enable toxic consumerism and “Australian-made” does not guarantee the food on your plate wasn’t the product of debt bondage. The “right” decision is too often passed up as consumers would prefer to turn a blind eye to ethics and sustainability in order to seek a cheaper option.

So, as an ethical consumer, there are many different things you can do. Here are a few:

  • Opt to shop at local small businesses, valuing hand-made items- When we buy from independent local businesses rather than national chains, a significant portion of our funds circulate through our local economy—buying from our friends’ businesses, helping neighbours in need, and supporting our local farms— — Ultimately strengthens the foundation of our entire community. You don’t have to give up your personal style to embrace conscious fashion. Check out your local op shop, second-hand store or find a social clothing exchange. Explore online platforms for resale and reuse of clothing.
  • When in doubt, research the popular brands you wish to buy from… or buy items from ethical stores instead of indulging yourself with the emulation of a popular brand. 
  • Buy “wardrobe staples” that are timeless and won’t fall out of trend. Fashion is cyclical. Stock up on a good pair of high-waisted skinny jeans and flared trousers that will be trending again soon. Save money for the future and pass on quality products to the next generation.
  • Buy higher quality items in order to limit the frequency of shopping. As you seek quality new clothes, look for fair trade certification, organic cotton, local, independent shops, ethical and sustainable fashion brands, small producers and clear reporting on materials and supply chains.
  • Donate, sell or swap barely used clothing. Find clothing exchanges, op shops, and second-hand stores. Explore online platforms from Facebook Marketplace to Depop and Poshmark. Swap clothes with friends and everyone can have a fresh wardrobe that doesn’t go to waste. Pause before throwing clothes in the bin or throwing them at the donation site. Most common donation channels end up throwing away most of the donated clothes, so read the options and remember that “out of sight, out of mind” doesn’t apply to waste. Repurpose clothing scraps and get crafty.
  • Rent items for special events rather than buying them for single use.
  • Encourage conversations about fast fashion and mass consumption and inspire sustainable swaps. Share your findings and encourage others to embrace quality over quantity. Do your part to break the often exclusive fashion culture by sharing knowledge and as elitism creeps into the conversation around clothing.