Identifying Consumption: Subjects and Objects in Consumer Society

Identifying Consumption: Subjects and Objects in Consumer Society

Identifying Consumption: Subjects and Objects in Consumer Society

Identifying Consumption: Subjects and Objects in Consumer Society

Synopsis

Identifying Consumptionillustrates how an individual's buying habits are shaped by the dynamics of the consumer marketplace-and thus how consumption and identity inform each other. Robert Dunn brings together the various theories of spending and develops a mode of analysis concentrating on the individual subjectivity of consumption. By doing so, he addresses how we spend and its relationship with status and lifestyle. Dunn provides a comprehensive guide to the study of modern consumer behaviour before summarizing and critiquing the major theories of consumption. At this juncture, he proposes a method of analysis that focuses on the significance of status and lifestyle in social relations that can help explain how the consumer marketplace is shaped. He concludes by raising issues about different ways of consuming and the relationship between consumption and identity.

Excerpt

Broadly understood, “consumption” defies simple definition, encompassing a vast range of human practices and mental and feeling states (shopping, buying, acquiring, using, possessing, displaying, maintaining, collecting, wasting, desiring, daydreaming, fantasizing), all of which involve complex relations and attachments to an infinite variety of objects and experiences. Material expansion and the proliferation of new forms of consumption have rendered mainstream economic ideas about consumption obsolete. Images and information are now consumed in greater quantities than goods and services, a result of tremendous growth in those sectors of the culture industry specializing in signifying processes designed to entertain and sell. This new category includes the packaged experiences of mass media, amusement parks, shopping malls, tourism, and other forms of commodified entertainment and distraction (Gottdeiner 2000; Rifkin 2000). Of special importance more recently is the burgeoning field of information technology, which is transforming older forms of media and amusement.

A subject matter of this scope lacks disciplinary boundaries and analytic center. In the past, mainstream economics, which viewed the consumer as a rational decision- maker creating “aggregate demand,” held a monopoly on consumption studies. However, other social sciences . . .

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