Special Session Summary Have-Not’S in a World of Haves: Disenfranchised Nations and Their Consumers in an Increasingly Affluent and Global World

Clifford J. Shultz, II, Arizona State University
[ to cite ]:
Clifford J. Shultz, II (2001) ,"Special Session Summary Have-Not’S in a World of Haves: Disenfranchised Nations and Their Consumers in an Increasingly Affluent and Global World", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 28, eds. Mary C. Gilly and Joan Meyers-Levy, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 277-279.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 28, 2001     Pages 277-279

SPECIAL SESSION SUMMARY

HAVE-NOT’S IN A WORLD OF HAVES: DISENFRANCHISED NATIONS AND THEIR CONSUMERS IN AN INCREASINGLY AFFLUENT AND GLOBAL WORLD

Clifford J. Shultz, II, Arizona State University

The study of consumer behavior has been largely a study of the world of "haves"; that is, a study of consumers who live in socioeconomic conditions above the poverty line and that afford considerable consumer choice in buying and consumption behavior. In short, the discipline overwhelmingly tends to study consumers who have many choices vis-a-vis consumer products and consumption experiences and have disposable income to enable those choices. Notable exceptions are found in the literature (e.g., Belk 1988; Hill and Stamey 1990; Shultz, Belk and Ger 1994). However, given that generally accepted measures of poverty or consumer well being, as reported by the likes of United Nations Development Programs and the World Health Organization, would require us to place approximately 3 billion of the world’s population into the category of "have-nots," the participants of this special session feel it is important to share results from some of their longitudinal work on an eclectic sample of these consumers. The participants thus hope to raise consumer-researcher consciousness and ultimately to mobilize further research to enhance consumer well being among the have-nots, who tend to reside in nations relatively unfamiliar to most ACR attendees.

Toward that end this special session assembled scholars with extensive scholarly experience in three particular countries of focus: Cambodia, Kazakstan, and Zimbabwe. Though these countries evince complex and diverse systemic forces that affect consumers, two interactive factors are evident in each of them: (1) the pervasiveness of have-nots and (2) the extent to which endmic forces will make difficult various intervention policies designed to transform the particular country into an environment in which haves will emerge and flourish. Consider, for example, that Cambodians still reel from one of the most horrific social experiments in the history of humanity, in which the intelligentsia was eradicated and the infrastructure decimated; Kazaks struggle to find their way in the wake of 70 years of Soviet domination and the current and startling "bombardment" of globalization; a new elite in Zimbabwe strives to carve a niche among the remnants of British colonialism. Furthermore, each country maintains socio-political systems or influential factions that do not fully embrace the consumer society and Western conceptions of social, spiritual and material well-being, which raises questions about the desirability of joining the world of haves, as Americans might typically envision that world.

Each participant was asked to frame and to analyze his/her country and consumers of discussion, with respect to some of the most salient systemic forces in that country. They include natural forces, economic forces, political forces, socio-cultural forces and the various national administrative systems implemented to affect consumer behavior and well being (cf. Shultz and Pecotich 1997). This more macro approach to consumption and consumer behavior is rather atypical of the consumer behavior literature, but each participant believesBand their experience indicatesBthat such a systemic analysis is imperative if intervention programs are to be implemented that can effect changes to enhance consumer well-being.

As a final preamble, an impetus for this special session was the participants’ belief that globalization will force all of us to understand and to interact more closely with these disenfranchised nations and consumers. Consider that each of these countries is "wired" to the Internet; each has access to satellite TV-transmissions and each is moving, however slowly in some cases, toward the consumer society. Precisely what the end game of those societies can or will look like, can be and should be affected by consumer researchers. Moreover, a disproportionately large amount of multilateral aid to Cambodia is funded by the US (and thus is funded by tax-paying American consumers); Kazakstan, a newly independent state is a population of consumers who are virtually tabula rasa and are just now forming Western product category and brand hierarchies and are trying to make sense of their evolving consumer society; Zimbabwe has an emerging elite that tends to replicate consumption patterns and tendencies seen among haves. Globalization, coupled with the finite resources of our planet, will require increased interaction with have-nots. Indeed, one can plausibly argue that the sustainability of our status as haves may be driven by our co-dependence on the world of have-nots and our humanity to bring them under the umbrella of well-being enjoyed by the world of haves. As consumer research scholars, therefore, we would be remiss if we failed to understand them and the systems that shape them.

Cliff Shultz served as Chair, Don Rahtz as discussion leader. What follows are synopses of the presentations.

 

"LOCAL AND GLOBAL MODELS OF CONSUMPTION AND THEIR APPEAL TO CONSUMERS IN ZIMBABWE"

Russell W. Belk, University of Utah

This video-aided presentation investigated the following tendencies, based on a year’s fieldwork in Zimbabwe during 1998-99. Maslow’s need hierarchy suggests that consumers will adequately satisfy "lower order" needs for food, clothing, and shelter before turning to goods that serve "higher order" needs for prestige, entertainment, and enlightenment. Nevertheless, consumers in many Third World nations often "leapfrog" to purchase televisions, stereos, Nike athletic shoes, Coca-Cola, and other seeming luxuries while sacrificing such presumed necessities as nutrition and health care. Ostensibly, one of the reasons for such consumption tendencies is the allure f world brands in the increasingly visible global community. Depth interviews with both rich and poor Zimbabweans as well as television and magazine advertisements were analyzed and used to present a portrait of the appeal of both local and global consumption patterns in Zimbabwe. Are these consumers more influenced by the consumption of local Zimbabweans (white or black) or by the imagined consumption of distant others in foreign countries? The answer is that both referents are important and that it is sometimes difficult to untangle these influences since local consumption models are themselves influenced by images of global consumption.

The strongest foreign influences in Zimbabwe, for several reasons and partly depending on the type of consumer good, are Great Britain, the United States, and South Africa. Zimbabwean consumer desires must be contextualized within the current Zimbabwean political environment, which regularly attacks Western nations and world institutions such as the IMF and world bank for creating the difficult economic conditions presently facing Zimbabwe. Global referents apparently can be loved on some grounds at the same time that they are hated on others. Furthermore, global brands often specifically attempt to localize their image. At the same time, severe economic problems are rapidly widening the already huge gaps between haves and have-nots within Zimbabwe and between Zimbabwe and the more affluent world. All of this makes a simple distinction between global and local consumer goods problematic. The presentation used interviews against a backdrop of advertisements in order to detail the nature of the consumption dilemma of being poor in a visibly affluent world.

 

"BEER VERSUS VODKA: BECOMING CITIZENS AND CONSUMERS IN KAZAKSTAN"

Gnliz Ger, Bilkent University

In this presentation, Gnliz Ger discussed the ambivalence of experienced modernityCthe past versus the present, Islam, the availability of goods versus their high prices and/or bad quality, the newfound national independence and freedom versus uncertainties, poverty, and unemploymentBin Kazakstan. Kazakstan is an oil, gas, and mineral-rich Central Asian country, which attracts the attention of many MNCs. Similarly to other Central Asian republics, it experienced an externally imposed communism for over 70 years. This period entailed Soviet modernization along with efforts to break Central Asians’ links to their own, allegedly inferior, past. The widespread and good Soviet education and health systems bolstered Sovietization of structures and ways of life. In this fastest marketizing country in the region, renamed Soviet structures still prevail and cultural and psychological ties to Russia, seen to be the closest ally and the main reference, remain strong.

Yet modernity is now assembled to be anything that is non Soviet. National pride is linked to the recent break with the Soviets. Breaking away from a Soviet identity, constructions of Islam, local/national culture, and Western things/ways are resources people draw from to build their new social selves. In that pursuit, photos and paraphernalia of Amaco baseball teams come to be displayed in the National Museum in Almaty. However, many consumers are pessimistic that capitalism will make life better and long for the certainty of communist times when "there was no unemployment." Human Development Index dropped since 1992 and, in 1997, only 20% of Kazakstani citizens received wages on time.

Consumers, with an immense lack of trust and a sense of being lost, have taken up advertising as a reading interest in its own right. People buy magazines and newspapers for the adverts in this country where there were no advertisements before 1994. Consumers are drawn to novel, high-tech and high quality goods, with the newest features, yet most can only afford the "poor and cheap" Chinese products or fakes of prestigious brands.

Consumers integrate foreign products into their lives by mixing the local and global, the old and the new. For example, a "typicall Kazak" dinner included a bazaar-bought Korean salad accompanying home-made dishes, a Western cake served along with a traditional desert, and Coke, vodka, champagne (and/or wine and/or cognac), beer, homemade cherry juice, and tea. The buffet, across from the dining table covered with these dishes and drinks, displayed a decorative copper plate with carved Arabic calligraphy from Kuran, a collection of French perfume bottles, and plastic Smurf characters in front of Russian literature books. Analysis and discussion will focus on creolized consumption entities such as respectability, investment/security, gift-giving/social ties, and aesthetics.

The creolization/hybridization observed in the ever-more-important consumption in Kazakstan makes lucid the in-between and localized nature of consumer culture. It also indicates the confluence of consumption and social identity. Whether globalization and the increased inter-penetration between the affluent and less-affluent societies will enhance consumer well-being in countries like Kazakstan or not depends on how accessible the economic and cultural resources are in the rural-urban, ethnic, gender, age, and other social classifications.

 

"FROM KILLING FIELDS TO CONSUMER SOCIETY: A CONSUMER GAP-ANALYSIS IN CAMBODIA"

Clifford J. Shultz, II, Arizona State University

The purpose of this presentation was to introduce session-attendees to the evolving conditions in which Cambodian consumers live, make purchase choices and ultimately consume, and to share policy recommendations to assist Cambodia’s hopeful transition to the world of haves. It was noted that, in the collective wake of the killing fields, the UNTAC-brokered elections, and the volatile political period currently being administered by Hun Sen and Prince Ranariddh, the primary focus of scholarly analysis continues to be policy-oriented, with a growing emphasis on economic conditions and trends. Only now are we beginning to have a glimpse of the consumption environment in Cambodia (see Shultz and Tith 1998). Thus, findings from over 5 years of the author’s active fieldwork in Cambodia were shared, with a principal focus on evolving consumption trends in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

The presentation focused on the gap between idealized outcomes planned by various change-agentsCsuch as private and public sector programs, multilateral aid programs and direct foreign investmentBand the tangible outcomes experienced by the majority of Cambodian citizens. Though it was not the purpose of this presentation to discuss the killing fields per se, attendees were reminded that after the Khmer Rouge marched into Phnom Penh on April 17, 1975, a chain of crimes-against-humanity was perpetrated on the Cambodian people that resulted in the death or departure of the intelligentsia, the bourgeoisie, and any detractor to Pol Pot’s vision of an agrarian utopia. Some estimates indicate more than 2 million people (more than one third of the population) were killed or fled the country.

To some extent Cambodia and its people have scratched and clawed their way back from the brink of annihilation. Direct foreign investment and multilateral aid, for example, are evident in the forms of new products, some manufacturing start-ups, trade and export development, infrastructure, new people and new ideas. Many consumer goods and information technologies familiar to Western consumers are available in urban centers. Thanks to unique archaeological resources, the Angkor temples and other touristic destinations, for example, the tourism sector continues to grow. There is cause for very cautious optimism in Cambodia. Nevertheless, the net socioeconomic result of Pol Pot’s vision was a virtual scorched-earth consumption environment of subsistence living that still permeates every aspect of daily life for Cambodian consumers. A decimated infrastructure, illiteracy, massive public health challenges, the prevalence of unexploded ordnance, prostitution, repression and corruption all impede Cambodians’ stuggle to join the world of haves.

The presentation concluded with integrative consumer-policy recommendations intended not only to abet Cambodian transition and Cambodia’s consumers, but also to serve as a template for other war-ravaged transition economies.

REFERENCES

Belk, R. (1988), Third World Consumer Culture," in Marketing and Development: Toward Broader Dimensions, E. Kumcu and A.F. Firat, eds. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.

Hill, R. and M. Stamey (1990), "The Homeless in America: An Examination of Possessions and Consumption Behaviors," Journal of Consumer Research, 17 (December), 303-321.

Shultz, C., R. Belk and G. Ger (1994), Research in Consumer Behavior: Consumption in Marketizing Economies, Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.

Shultz, C. and A. Pecotich (1997), "Marketing and Development in the Transition Economies of Southeast Asia: Policy Explication, Assessment and Implications," Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 16 (1), 55-68.

Shultz, C. and Naranhkiri Tith (1998), "Cambodia: Transition and the Consequences for Future Consumption and Marketing," in Marketing and Consumer Behavior in East and Southeast Asia, A. Pecotich and C. Shultz, eds. Sydney: McGraw Hill.

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