Elusive Consumption

Elusive Consumption

Elusive Consumption

Elusive Consumption


In the context of rising consumerism and globalization, books on consumption are numerous. These tend to be firmly rooted in particular disciplines, however - sociology, anthropology, business or cultural studies - and as a result often present a blinkered view.Charged with the mission of unravelling what consumption means and how it operates, the world's leading experts were flown to a secluded location in Sweden to 'battle it out'. This pioneering book represents the outcome. Ranging from the 'little black dress' to on-line communities, Elusive Consumption challenges our very understanding of consumerism. How successful is the advertising world in manipulating our buying patterns? Does the global marketplace promote cultural homogeneity or heterogeneity? Is the West really more of a 'consumerist civilization' than other countries? Does the advertising of certain products influence a voter's choice of political party? How are products associated and marketed to different genders? These controversial topics and many more are discussed.Covering virtually every aspect of the word 'consumerism', Elusive Consumption provides a state-of-the-art view of the highly commercialized society we inhabit today. Some might have it that consumers are unwitting pawns, completely lacking in agency. Others might argue that consumer choices are empowering and subtly shape production. Richard Wilk, Colin Campbell, John F. Sherry, Richard Elliott, Russell Belk, and Daniel Miller - who offers the most persuasive argument in this battle royal?


Nowadays, research on consumption is carried out within a broad field of disciplines ranging from the humanities and social sciences to technology. Researchers with different theoretical and methodological traditions such as anthropology, sociology and marketing do, however, seldom meet even though they often use each other's methods and theories. The ethnographical methods introduced by anthropologists now appear in the toolbox of any consumer researcher. Also, the anthropologist Marcel Mauss's work on gift-giving is frequently referred to by researchers from many different disciplines. Anthropologists have traditionally been interested in how relations are maintained in foreign cultures by the exchange of goods, symbolic or material, and in the importance of rituals involving consumption. Today, when researchers study their own neighbouring streets and corner stores, the fruitfulness of importing traditional anthropological theories and concepts in a modern, western context is highlighted.

Sociological forefathers such as Weber and Veblen are also often to be found in lists of references. They were both interested in goods as signs of social status. Expensive lavish objects communicated power and the ability to show off in front of others. Later, with Barthes and the semiotic revolution, merchandise increasingly turned into a language able to formulate subtler meanings. The primary focus was the way identity was expressed within different social groups. Research on lifestyles and youth culture are good examples with many followers.

Consumer behaviour was introduced within marketing as a research area during the 1950s, and has since become increasingly interdisciplinary. A paradigm shift towards increased acceptance of interpretative research and ethnographic methods happened in the mid 1980s. The Consumer Behavior Odyssey when, during one summer, two dozens of consumer researchers travelled from Los Angeles to Boston in order to study consumption and interview consumers along the way, was a highly contributive factor.

Not only disciplines studying consumption, but also the actual act of consumption itself, have become more and more porous. Consumption (and consumerism) is gradually trickling into all areas of human life. It is closely . . .

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