Consumerism and self-representation in an era of global capitalism

Authored by: Gary G. Hamilton , Donald Fels

Routledge Handbook of Cultural Sociology

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  November  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138288621
eBook ISBN: 9781315267784
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter argues that the leading theories of global convergence misinterpret what is actually happening in the global economy. In one form or another, these theories point to various economic and social institutions as the principal causes leading to inevitable outcomes. Such “supply-driven” independent variables ignore the selective choices made by consumers. Rather than supply-driven, it is more accurate to see that global processes are driven by consumer demand, processes that lead to differentiation, as well as convergence. The chapter illustrates these processes with a detailed analysis of the post-World War II retail revolution that reshaped global capitalism around technologies that could reliably measure demand for ideal and material goods. These technologies allow retailers and merchandisers to form a “feedback loop” with consumers, which in turn allows them to order the desired goods from contract manufacturers. This feedback loop also encourages cultural diversity that forms around consumers’ desires for self-representation.

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