© William M. Vander, ca. 1900, Electric Light Patent, Accession Number: 1974:0056:1347
After the First World War, Dutch firm Philips, the American General Electric and German Osram joined forces with other European and Japanese companies in an agreement to limit the lifespan of their light bulbs and fix prices as part of the Phoebus cartel.
The cartel is an important step in the history of global economy because of their alleged involvement in the creation of great-scale planned obsolescence. It reduced competition in the light bulb industry for almost twenty years, and has been accused of preventing technological advances that would have produced longer-lasting light bulbs.
“Our enormously productive economy (…) demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption (…) we need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discarded at an ever-accelerating rate.” (Victor Lebow)