The rise of the consumer culture is a phenomenon characterizing the 20th and 21st centuries, where the economy depends on the population's spending on goods and services. Before the Industrial Revolution – that is, before the 18th century in England, or the 19th century in Western Europe and North America – the majority of population lived in rural areas and worked in agriculture, where the resources for production were limited. Nowadays, societies of developed countries are organized around the unprecedented consumer appetite and display of commodities through which individuals gain their identity and prestige. Despite the obvious positive financial effect on the economy and corporations, where the economy develops by generated demand for goods and services, creating innovation, convenience and employment opportunities, consumer society is often a topic of debate and criticism.
There is a psychological impact of consumerism that promotes destructive values. For example, a common belief that anything in life is replaceable, easily accessible for immediate gratification, and not dependent on human relationships creates the illusion of individual autonomy, and might replace interpersonal trust with monetary relationships. The result is dependence on consumption for a member of a society to function. In fact, such values have influenced romantic and family relationships and traditions. For instance, most children at Christmas time expect to receive material gifts as a sigh of love, also today it is impossible to imagine a proposal without a ring- in many cases material objects represent and mean more than human relationships.
It is generally believed that advertising manipulates the society through the products of consumer culture and promotes a false understanding of needs, which leads to a growing consumption of unnecessary products. Importunate advertising presses upon the public, leading to choices that involve little thought- ideas and needs are often fed to the public by media, not by rational thinking.