Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Shopping as a Lifestyle

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 18th February, 2018

1C3D254A-2708-44A8-9596-37E596D4DF3CIt has often been noted that we live in a materialist age, where we are increasingly judged by what we own, rather than what sort of person we are. Advertising pressures us to build up our self-image by buying more; indeed, the proponents of free market capitalism would argue that by boosting consumption we grow the economy and therefore become richer as a society. Or at least that’s the theory, though the growing numbers of homeless rough sleepers on both sides of the Atlantic suggest that the post-War economic model has not been an unqualified success — and that’s before we consider how sustainable the consumer society is, given rising population and the earth’s finite resources. I’ve been prompted to these musings by being based for the past week in Dubai, which is a city that has become almost symbolic of the “more is better” approach to global living. Over the three decades I’ve been coming here the place has been totally transformed from being a rather charming medium-sized trading hub, still enjoying the revenues from its twilight years of oil production, to an in-your-face post-modern multicultural city, constantly expanding. Dubai has astutely diversified its economy much more effectively than most places in the Gulf, including building up light industry, financial services and tourism. Partly to keep the flow of tourists coming, Dubai has also branded itself a shoppers’ paradise; even outside the annual shopping festivals, people are urged to buy, buy, buy, with all kinds of discounts and special offers. Shopping malls have proliferated, with new ones often vaulting themselves as the biggest and best. You don’t even need to go to Korea for the Winter Olympics at the moment, as there are malls in Dubai where you can ski and ice-skate, no matter how high the temperature outside. At the height of summer, when the temperatures reache the high 40s centigrade, the air-conditioned malls are of course an oasis, but in fact they are busy all year round. Moreover, they are one of the few places where you can see Emirati families, who make up only about 10 per cent of the city’s population. They have certainly bought into the shopping dream, to the extent that it has almost become a lifestyle. Even if the emirate’s economy is reportedly not doing quite as well as it was and some companies have been laying off staff, the message is still loud and clear: go to the Mall and shop till you drop!

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