Home Institution

Pitzer College

Publication Date

Fall 2004

Program Name

Samoa: Pacific Islands Studies


Communalism is a system of living where the good of a total group is prioritized over individual wealth or wellbeing. Consumerism is a fascination with the act of purchasing and acquiring goods. This paper attempts to find out how consumer culture might clash or coincide with a tradition of communalism within the Pacific island nation of Samoa. It looks at the history of communalism within Samoa, and how communalism has been interpreted in Samoa’s modern society, manifesting in the form of remittances and formal gift exchanges.

With the introduction of a cash economy from the West, the paper looks at how the notion of prosperity has been handled by Samoa as a communal society. It also studies consumption as a product of the West to find what forces have brought consumerism to Samoa, and contends that media advertising and the Samoan government’s regulations (or lack there of) on imports are the two major factors most influencing consumers’ options and decisions.

Finally, the paper considers a Samoan sociologist’s perspective of consumerism and of her own culture in the face of change. The paper concludes that education on a personal, local, and national scale should become part of Samoa’s consumer experience. Once aware of their options, rights, and responsibilities as consumers, Samoans can make informed decisions in order to blend and adapt aspects of communalism to cooperate with the inevitable materialization of consumer culture.


Anthropology | Social and Cultural Anthropology


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