Academic journal article International Journal of Marketing Studies

The Postmodern Consumer: An Identity Constructor?

Academic journal article International Journal of Marketing Studies

The Postmodern Consumer: An Identity Constructor?

Article excerpt


This article attempts to contribute to better understand the postmodern consumer, by trying to identify one of its main characteristics: an identity constructor. Indeed, after studying the postmodern conditions, we have noticed that every condition favors the creation of identities voluntarily and consciously assumed by the consumer. The consumer is always looking to be socially desired by changing his identity every time he wishes. An empirical study was, therefore, conducted to confirm this postmodern consumer trend. The results found shows that the postmodern consumer is not seeking to manage his impression in front of others through changing identities but rather he seeks to live deeply himself in all identities which he built.

Keywords: postmodern conditions, consumer, identity construction, social desirability

1. Introduction

Postmodernism was a prominent social theory during almost three decades (Christensen & al., 2005) but marketing field has not explicitly recognized postmodernism as an important descriptor of the current social condition than from the 90s (Lo 'pez-Bonilla & Lo' pez-Bonilla, 2009). Postmodernism has to consider modalities through which individuals think and act as consumers in contemporary societies (Hirschman & Holbrook, 1992; Holt, 1997; Thompson, 2002). Indeed, many researchers are attracted by postmodernism because of its interdisciplinary nature which allows the crossing of theoretical limits and gives a less limited and a richer vision of consumers (Miles, 1999). With the introduction of postmodernism as an analytical framework of contemporary consumer (Saren, 2011, Hirschman & Holbrook, 1992; Firat & Venkatesh, 1993), a new feature of the consumer was revealed as a constructor of identities voluntarily and consciously assumed by the consumer in order to live at best the various experiences of consumption (Firat, Sherry & Vankatech, 1994). This phenomenon is called social desirability (Firat & Shultz, 2001), the process by which people attempt to control the image that others have of them. The aim of research consists, therefore, in checking the psychological trait of "identity constructor" of the postmodern consumer. Thus, first, from a theoretical analysis of postmodern conditions, we will highlight the fact that each condition supports the process of creating identity by the postmodern consumer. The relationship between social desirability concept and identity construction will be identified in the following section. Finally, to check if postmodern consumer is an identity constructor we conducted an empirical study nearby 256 consumers whose results will be interpreted and discussed later.

2. Postmodern Conditions and Consumer Identity Construction Process

Firat and Vankatech (1993) identified five conditions of postmodernism: hyperreality, fragmentation, reversal of production and consumption, decentred subject, and paradoxical juxtaposition of opposites. Van Raaij (1993) adds to these conditions, pluralism and acceptance of differences as a dominant approach to all relationships. In 1997, Firat and Shultz, suggest other conditions of postmodern society such as: openness and tolerance, presenteeism, acceptance of disorder and chaos and importance of style and form. As suggested by Firat and Shultz (2001) and Brown (2006), the most common conditions used and which made a consensus on behalf of the authors and the researchers in postmodernism, are those advanced by Firat and Vankatech (1993), that regroup postmodern conditions into five categories. So, in the following sections, we will try to explain these conditions, and present their consequences on the consumer identity construction process.

2.1 Hyperreality and Construction Identity

In modern thought, the representation tries to understand the objective reality by means of observation and practice (Firat & Vankatech, 1995). On the other hand, postmodernism rejects the myth of a universal and uniform reality to allow "re-creation" of new particular realities by releasing the sign of what it means and of its referent. …

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