Consumption and critique

From production to aesthetics

Authored by: Alan Warde

Handbook of Cultural Sociology

Print publication date:  July  2010
Online publication date:  September  2010

Print ISBN: 9780415474450
eBook ISBN: 9780203891377
Adobe ISBN: 9781134026159


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Only recently have sociologists used the concept of consumption extensively. It remains primarily a topic of interdisciplinary attention, with the related concept “consumer” more widely deployed, especially in economics, psychology, and marketing. That said, terms like consumer culture and consumer society have come to play an important role in some sociological characterizations of contemporary social arrangements. Many accounts suggest that central features of industrial capitalism—where disciplined labor in manufacturing goods was the key axis of social order in the face of material scarcity—are receding, replaced for most people in affluent societies by the appeal of consumption in a context where leisure, shopping, and the home become the focal points of everyday life. In this chapter I describe some features of the emergence of a specialized sociological sub-discipline, paying particular attention to oscillations between the normative and the empirical analysis of this crucial component of social life.

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