There seems to be a general consensus within my cultural echo chamber that consumerism is objectively bad. It is easy to agree with this sentiment, but after stepping back and breaking down the concept I’m not so sure it is valid.
With demonization of consumerism comes the sanctification of its opposite. The evil twin called minimalism. One of the core tenets of minimalism is the idea that by having less you can better enjoy what remains. In other words, a state of Epicurean-like asceticism can make it easier to extract pleasure from experiences and things. For human beings, this is probably objectively true.
But is this concept so different from consumerism? Consumerism is a result of, and largely lives within, the game of capitalism. In this game, people tend to sacrifice their time and energy in return for tokens which allow for acquisition of goods and services to sustain life and provide pleasure.
While the means are different, the ends are similar. The consumerist is able to enjoy his marginal iPhone purchase as a complement to the hours spent at the office doing sometimes unenjoyable things. The minimalist is able to enjoy his marginal daily cup of tea as a complement to the rest of the day spent without the tea. And just as the minimalist learns to enjoy the physical thirst for tea before quenching it, the consumerist can learn to sublimate his desire for goods into productive labor in order to quench the thirst of material desire.