The most recent consumer revolutions occurred when the industrial revolution caused changes in the ability of individuals to make their own decisions in life and to create personal wealth. The industrial revolution freed the servant and serf from the pitiful pay and miserable working and social conditions that the lower classes were sentenced to from birth. There was a bloom in the working and middle classes that suddenly had money to pay for more than the basics of food, housing, and clothing.
The ability to buy homes and to fill them with possessions that mimicked those of the great houses, the ability to buy better qualities of food and mass produced clothing created even more work for those who produced the mass quantities of lesser and cheaper items for the average home and individual.
The development of credit and timed payment options allowed for even more consumer revolution. An explosive development in the ability of individuals to retain employment for an entire 20 year career, and to retire with a guaranteed income were the results of the foundation of utilities, growth and stability in major corporate and government structures, and the formalized and long term military career.The development of union representation, Social Security pensionand disability programs, Veterans compensation and pension, unemployment insurance and welfare programs assured that every citizen should have some income or another to keep the engine of supply and demand running.
And even today, with up to 17 percent employment in some sectors, a percieved economic collapse, and horrendous problems, industrialized nations manage to have fully functioning markets for banking, credit, retail, and wholesale items. In terms of consumer revolution, not much is happening.
There are movements by the unemployed and those who are unsure of their job security to reduce or eliminate high interest revolving credit debt, curtail unnecessary retail purchases, and to flock to the discount, liquidation and other alternative sources of goods and supplies.
Restaurants and fast food franchises are being forced to offer very low price meal and menu options. Department stores are liquidating more excess goods to Goodwill, their own on line and physical outlet and liquidation stores, and through ongoing sales and price restructuring. "Big Box" and other bulk purchase retail outlets are attracting more consumers. On line purchases through E-bay and other outlets, with lower prices from not having the overhead of in place retail operations are increasing astronomically.
One series of "consumer revolutions" is the increased activity of garage sales, auctions, flea markets, "urban scores", thrift shopping, and other alternatives to buying new consumer goods, such as furniture, cars, clothes, toys, and household items. "Urban scores" happen when unwanted items are simply left on the sidewalk or in the larger community refuse containers. In major urban centers, the items are put out in the morning and are gone before the day is over. On line and print based "markets" where used or new goods are sold in private sales are booming.
It must also always be recognized when any aspect of the economy is discussed, that an enormous segment of population in developed nations are operating a monstrous illegal drug and stolen good consumer market. The income from selling drugs is propping up an entire underground and illicit economy of scale, where individuals with no other significant means of income are obviously living well enough.
The participants of this economy are capable of buying new retail goods, paying for housing, and consuming an enormous amount of retail items and utilities, with only the purchases showing up on the books. When they are arrested, die, are killed or evicted, or otherwise run out of their homes, they simply leave a massive amount of goods for the "urban score" or thrift shop markets.
In this sense, the underground illicit drug economy, society, and operations are the true consumer and social revolutions of this era. Other "revolutions" that may boom, bust, or establish a permanent presence include private sales through Craigs list and E-Bay, flea markets, discount stores, liquidation outlets, and garage sales, along with on line buying through on line mega stores which will serve as portals to lead buyers to the best online bargains.
But currently the general populations are only exhibiting short term reactions to what is perceived to be a short term economic crisis. There is no general public anticipation or expectation of a major collapse of the large middle classes which are keeping the major developed countries in political and social stability and out of social crisis.