In 1821, G.W.F. Hegel wrote about consumer socialization in his famed "Philosophy of Right." The human being is trained in the basic virtues in the family, and then can be socialized into the economy, where the future citizen acts as a consumer and a worker. The point is that the virtues and expectations involved in the family or government are totally different than in the economy. Consumer socialization, then, refers to that set of skills and attitudes that are specific to the buying and selling of goods in the free market.
Business writer Karin Ekstrom writes that socialization, among other things, is the development of a set of skills and ideas that make it possible for a person to function within a specific group. In this case, that group, as Hegel explains, is the economic world of the free market. This world is different from such others as cultural life or family tradition, and therefore, the virtues are very different.
Consumer socialization can refer to the changing life of the market and the person's actions and attitudes within it. In more contemporary times, credit, debt, market choice and smart shopping have taken on an importance that goes beyond the mere satisfying of desires. Especially in bad economic times, consumer socialization is about remaining active in the marketplace, but according to a rationality that stretches the value of the dollar.
Being involved in the market is membership in the broader society. When you produce products as a worker, you are not producing for yourself, but for the broader market that includes your country, region and, in some cases, the entire world. Production, as consumption, is a universal action that links the worker and consumer in a chain that spans the globe. Global competition means that producers are under more pressure than ever to get and retain customers. The result in socialization is the consumer not as a passive consumer, but as a rational agent that actively chooses among many alternatives.
Change and Media
Consumer socialization is about change. Media, education and even the family develop different virtues as social life changes. This can lead to an attitude where products are the key to happiness and fulfillment, or one where products are merely means to satisfy needs. Consumer socialization is a part of advertising because advertisers try to shape this conception of "need." Advertising shapes "wants" into "needs;" that is, luxuries into necessities. Advertising, in short, tries to usurp the role as prime socializing agent for consumers in spurring demand to soak up production.