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In [[economics]], ''consumerism'' can also refer to economic policies that place an emphasis on consumption, and, in an abstract sense, the belief that the free choice of consumers should dictate the economic structure of a society (cf. [[Producerism]], especially in the British sense of the term).
Although consumerism is commonly associated with [[capitalism]] and the [[Western world]], it is multi-cultural and non-geographical, as seen today in [[Tokyo]], [[Singapore]], [[Hong Kong]], [[Shanghai]], [[Taipei]], [[Tel Aviv]] and [[Dubai]], for example. Consumerism, as in people purchasing goods or consuming materials in excess of their basic needs, is as old as the first [[civilization]]s (see [[Ancient Egypt]], [[Babylon]] and [[Ancient Rome]], for example). Since consumerism began, various individuals and groups have consciously sought an alternative lifestyle through [[simple living]].