Contradictions of Consumption: Concepts, Practices, and Politics in Consumer Society

Contradictions of Consumption: Concepts, Practices, and Politics in Consumer Society

Contradictions of Consumption: Concepts, Practices, and Politics in Consumer Society

Contradictions of Consumption: Concepts, Practices, and Politics in Consumer Society


"A critical introduction to the field that manages to be both considered and argumentative, and stands out distinctly from the more 'culturalist' alternatives available... it should provide a strong text for undergraduate courses." Don Slater, Goldsmiths College, University of London

• How has consumer society developed?

• What are the social divisions, politics and policies associated with consumption?

• How do consumer practices have social significance?

This lively and accessible text shows how consumption is increasingly important in dominating our individual lives and indeed the entire development and direction of contemporary society, nationally and internationally. Consumption is inherently contradictory in its nature and meaning. The most rapturous form of shopping, for example clothes purchasing on unlimited plastic in a shopping mall, may turn into the most tortuous as the shopper tires, the clothes don't fit, and the car park is cramped. Tim Edwards argues that the practice of consumption itself and consumer society more widely is often socially divisive and iniquitous, and examines the extent to which consumer power is real or illusory. He provides a thorough analysis and critique of the theories, practices and politics of consumer society. In particular, this book addresses the social divisions of consumption through topics such as fashion, advertising and marketing, as well as more classical and contemporary theories of consumer society. It will appeal to a wide range of students in sociology, cultural studies, social policy and the politics of identity.


In the modern world, it has become a cliché to suggest that we inhabit,
are even victims of, a 'consumer society'; that 'consumerism' is ram
pant; that we are dominated by 'consumer culture', having passed
through a 'consumer revolution'.

(Fine and Leopold 1993: 62)

Consumer society, as concept and practice, is now a matter for some consumption in itself. Recent years have seen a steadily increasing interest in the ideas and activities of consumption in the fields of academic and popular discourse alike. Television and newspapers now produce regular reports on spending patterns and talk in endless psychological riddles of consumer confidence; and the exploding profusion of lifestyle magazines incessantly advise and direct their readers in matters of style and taste. Similarly, a rapid expansion in academic attention to questions of consumption has taken place across the entire canon of the arts and social sciences, from psychoanalytic interpretation and textual analysis to the further development of economic histories and the production of anthropological ethnographies and sociological narratives (see, for example, Featherstone 1991; Shields 1992; Bowlby 1993; Fine and Leopold 1993; Lury 1996; Slater 1997b; Miller 1998).

What is at stake in all cases is a concern with what the apparently now exponential growth in the significance and importance attached to consumption actually means for society as a whole and for the individual. Are we heading over some precipice into uncontrolled hedonism, experiencing . . .

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