Throwaway Living

Throwaway LivingThrowaway Living pg2

Life Magazine, August 1, 1955 pg 43

This Life Magazine article of August 1, 1955 “Throwaway Living,” is cited as the source that first used the term “throw-away society.” Our societal values dramatically shifted during that 1950’s decade.  Just following World War II, “Mainstream culture emphasised getting material possessions and a good job as the path to happiness.” (Values and Attitudes of the 1950’s)

We embraced the concept and freely dispose (definition: “intended to be used once, or until no longer useful, and then thrown away”) of everything.  Now sixty years later, our planet and all who inhabit it are experiencing the ramifications. We are on the path of throwing-away life as well.

“But what many consumers don’t realize is that this throw-away world was largely made by design. Manufacturers call it “planned obsolescence” .…advertising has taught us that new is good and that old isn’t.”

“…we have become a throwaway society. Instead of honoring and preserving our past, we tear it down, shove it aside, and just go on our merry way. Well, I won’t have it. We have to stand firm for what we believe in. Only in the most dire circumstances should a structure of historical significance be demolished.” Beth Hoffman, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt.

In the process of becoming a throw-away society, we did an over haul of our values. Our values have shifted away from culture (“the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively”) to materialism. We threw out traditions and our innate wisdom, which knew the importance of the concepts of preserving, sustaining, conserving, keeping, saving, protecting, safeguarding, caring for, maintaining, upholding and continuing.

We began to believe that these are old, outmoded values. “Out with the old, in with the new,” became our society’s mantra.  We now readily buy, use, and toss out.  Fixing is becoming obsolete.

In the process of becoming a throw-away society, we are waxing as a materialistic, consumer oriented society and waning as a life-sustaining society.  We have embraced a waste mentality and these concepts:  discarding, disposing, dispensable, dumping, getting rid of, throwing out, scraping, ditching, rejecting, wasting, squandering, frittering away, draining, exhausting, destroying, ending and cutting off and degradation.

“Our enormously productive economy… demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption… We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced, and discarded at an ever increasing rate.” Victor Lebow

Further References:

Planned Obsolescence

“A manufacturing decision by a company to make consumer products in such a way that they become out-of-date or useless within a known time period. The main goal of this type of production is to ensure that consumers will have to buy the product multiple times, rather than only once. This naturally stimulates demand for an industry’s products because consumers have to keep coming back again and again.”  Also known as “built-in obsolescence”.

“Planned obsolescence” is not a myth.  It is a manufacturing philosophy developed in the 1920’s and 1930’s, when mass production became popular.  The goal is to make a product or part that will fail, or become less desirable over time or after a certain amount of use. This pressures the consumer to buy again. 

Advertising trains consumers to want what is new and improved.  It convinces them that the more they have, the happier they will be.  Vance Packard, author of The Waste Makers, a book published in 1960, called this “the systematic attempt of business to make us wasteful, debt-ridden, permanently discontented individuals.”

Other Links:

Trashing the Planet:                                                  

Waste:                                                                                                                                                   The Waste Makers  by Vance Packard                                                           

“A society in which consumption has to be artificially stimulated to keep production going is a society founded on trash and waste, and such a society is a house
built upon sand.” -DOROTHY L. SAYERS in Creed or Chaos

This is part of the Blog series,  A Throw-away Society


This entry was posted in Consumerism, Throw-away society. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Throwaway Living

  1. Well, thought out, and written blog. Thank you for sharing.


  2. sophiebowns says:

    This was very interesting!
    -I’m just popping by from UBC….I’ll follow your blog!


  3. I’m guilty of this to an extent. For the most part, I’ll keep something until the wheels fall off (so to speak) and then throw it away. I do agree that the mantra is alive and well in our society because it’s so easy to do with all the resources we have. Back in the day, they had to make it work for as long as they could. Just an evolution.


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