“Throw- away- lifestyle” – Ever heard about PLANNED OBSOLESCENCE?

Help! I just wanted to update my Keynote program on my Mac. It didn’t work because I am still using Mac OS X 10.6.8. Unfortunately the latest operating system was required. This laptop is in use for not even 2 years.


No definitely not. The Keyword is “Planned Obsolescence”.  According to Oxford Dictionaries planned obsolescence is a

policy of producing consumer goods that rapidly become obsolete and so require replacing, achieved by frequent changes in design, termination of the supply of spare parts, and the use of non-durable materials.“ 

 Referring to Cosima Dannoritzer’s documentary film “The light bulb conspiracy- the untold story of planned obsolescence” the model of planned obsolescence was already introduced in the early 20s. In order to ensure the continuous consumption of light bulbs, the biggest light bulbs producers in the world (mostly from the U.S. and Europe) founded a secret cartel called Phoebus. They limited the lifetime of light bulbs from 2500 hours to 1000 hours.  The cartel controlled the production of its member factories so that they won’t produce light bulbs which last longer than 1000 hours. But above all they controlled the consumers. By 1942 the U.S. government found out about the illegal cartel and after a 10-year process Phoebus and its actions were declared as illegal.

But did this change anything? 

After the world wide economic crisis in 1929, some economists not only saw the principle of planned obsolescence as a way to ensure the continuous consumption but also as a way to ensure employment. Defeater of this theory was Bernard London, he published 1932 his paper “Ending the Depression through Planned Obsolescence”.

The U.S.  let the crisis behind and the economy started to grow. And grow. Planned obsolescence supporter like the industry designer Dr. Boris Knuf stay that without planned obsolescence there wouldn’t be products, there wouldn’t be the industry, there wouldn’t be all the jobs which are related to this mass of products.

Does this mean that planned obsolescence is indispensable?

According to critics like Serge Latouche and John Tackara planned obsolescence will destroy our planet sooner or later. Nowadays we should know that our globe does not have unlimited resources. A world in which consumption grows every day will take revenge sooner or later. We should ask ourselves the following questions:

What happens with all the dump we produce? Who are the ones who suffer? How would a sustainable economy look like? How can we as producers fight against this phenomenon? Are there any business models which take sustainability into account? 

My next blog posts are coming soon! I will dig in deeper into this topic and try to collect answers and opinions. Just follow the Blogbusters to be updated.


4 thoughts on ““Throw- away- lifestyle” – Ever heard about PLANNED OBSOLESCENCE?

  1. Pingback: Welcome to E-Waste-Hell- Did you enjoy your products? | The BlogBusters

  2. Hey Julia,

    Great post! I’m so glad someone brought this up again.
    Some time ago I really was into that topic as well.
    I want to share an example with you I stumbled across doing my research:

    Did you know there is a light bulb that has been burning for more than 100 (!!!) years now? And it still does!

    Really fascinating! So there IS an alternative. If we would only want to reduce waste… but the economic interests are still greater than our environmental concerns.

    Your post can be perfectly connected to your other post – E-Waste-Hell.

    I agree with you: in a sustainable and environmental friendly economy ‘planned obsolescence is obsolete’ – what was good for the last millennium doesn’t have to be good for the future.
    You may also check out what Annie Leonard, expert for sustainable production and consumption and her team have to say about that in their video.

    Best regards and keep up the good work!


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