Planned obsolescence: conspiracy or necessity?

Planned obsolescence means that a product is designed to become obsolete after a certain period of time even though it can still be considered useful. The obsolescence can be technical, which means that the product breaks, or psychological, which means that people consider the product outdated. 

For the technical obsolescence, products can usually be repaired or maintained in order to extend their life, but this can prove to be quite costly, which encourages people to buy new products instead. 

For the psychological obsolescence, people feel that a new product is more useful, which is not always the case. People are also influenced by others and by marketing when deciding that a product is outdated for reasons other than technological.

The concept of planned obsolescence is not new and some people even believed that it can help end the great depression of the thirties by stimulating the economy (see “Ending the Depression Through Planned Obsolescence”, By Bernard London, 1932). Others think that it’s a way for companies to make people buy products that they don’t really need. In his book The Waste Makers, Vance Packard thinks that planned obsolescence is part of “the systematic attempt of business to make us wasteful, debt-ridden, permanently discontented individuals”. 

Planned obsolescence could help reduce production costs which should lower prices. On the other hand, buying cheaper products more often may not be better. For instance, if you need to change a laptop every year and you pay $500 each time, you’ll end up paying more than you would pay for a $800 laptop that lasts 2 years. What do you think? Can consumers also benefit from planned obsolescence?

Also, do you prefer to replace or repair? Or maybe it doesn’t matter to you, as long as the price is right (e.g.: replacing is cheaper)?

Finally, should we consider environmental issues such as recycling plastic or some components or electronics devices which are “processed” by people in places like this “electronic graveyard”?


Obsolescence programmée des télévisions


One response to “Planned obsolescence: conspiracy or necessity?

  1. Pingback: Thanks planned obsolescence, but it is under warranty | The Web Up

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