Last time, I shared with you the story of Phoebus – a 20th century cartel that sought to fix light bulb prices as well as harm product innovation with reduced longevity. Doing so would mean strong demand for replacement products, and fortified sales volumes. Since those early days though, some economic literature has surfaced to formally analyse the rationale behind planned obsolescence in imperfectly competitive markets. With this understanding in mind, we find that there are plenty of remarkable examples of planned obsolescence today.
I’m writing a series on planned obsolescence, inspired by the documentary – The Light Bulb Conspiracy. I’ll begin with its history up until the mid-20th century, to be followed by reflections on more modern examples and applications, before discussing the more recent backlash from the anti-consumerist perspective and its implications for our global economy today.