Over the past decade, there has been a discernible rise in the number of wellness centers and fitness studios in urban cities in India. These centers are spatial manifestations of the rise in a particular type of "self-care" regimes and "body projects" in modern social imaginary prevalent in urban India, predominantly enabled by the rise of middle-class consumer culture. While the literature on fitness spaces and wellness clubs in Western contexts is instructive to a very large extent, the local particularities of consumption experiences in non-Western contexts require contextualized empirical research in order to better inform modern theories of consumption. This article is a study of a wellness center in the South Indian city of Chennai. Using ethnographic methods, I attempt to unpack the experience of consuming wellness in a space that ostensibly claims to remedy the ills of modern living while doing so in a culturally traditional and "Indian" manner. I show how the experiences of predominantly middle-class consumers here are dictated not by a sentimental attachment to tradition or locality, but by a vocabulary of speaking that primarily favors a language of consumer choice and rational decision-making. Whether or not that is the case, the way in which consumption of an "Indian" brand of wellness occurs demonstrates the stronghold of the language of consumer choice making the space at the wellness center a performative arena for self-identity formation to occur.
Recently, economists and environmental scientists have problematised households, showing that their reducing size in average number of inhabitants has implications for environmental sustainability due to losses in economies of scale. Findings suggest that resources are shared better when people live together. This article analyses this common domestic consumption, drawing on literature about households, sharing and sustainable consumption. It is argued that multiple-person households apportion the resources involved in supplying practices through three modes of sharing: successive sharing, simultaneous sharing and shared/divided work. These are underpinned and enabled by standard material arrangements of households, in which a minimum of certain goods and services are available to residents regardless of number. Exemplifying the perspective, I examine recent survey data relating to meals and domestic laundry, two sociologically significant and resource-intensive spheres of domestic activity, paying attention to differences across one-person and multiple-person households. Modes of sharing, it is argued, also surfeit the domestic sphere, with market, state and household infrastructures playing contextually variable roles in provisioning goods and services among populations.
The purpose of this article is to examine how social background influences the way people evaluate and justify their food consumption. Theoretically, the article combines Bourdieu’s theory of class-based practices with Boltanski and Thévenot’s theory of situated judgement in order to better understand how social class and moral values are connected. Empirically, the article analyses how social class might constrain or enable certain types of justification for food consumption. Using quantitative data on Danish food consumers’ attitudes to food, shopping and cooking, together with information on their social background, the analysis investigates the relation between consumers’ use of five orders of worth (Civic, Industrial, Inspired, Domestic and Health, and Market) and their cultural, economic and social capital as well as socio-demographic background. The main results are that four of the orders of worth (Civic, Industrial, Inspired and Market) are strongly related to consumers’ cultural capital, and to some extent social capital, but not to economic capital. Other background variables such as age and gender also influence which consumers adhere to different food evaluation criteria. The results support the notion that plural moralities are at play in food consumption, especially within groups with high cultural capital.
What turns a bottle of fermented grape juice into a cult wine? Current research in the sociology of culture and food assumes that nowadays the distinctiveness of goods is ascertained not on the basis of traditional food hierarchies (e.g. French food and wine as the global benchmark) but based on criteria of authenticity and exoticism. Since public discourse plays an important role in the consecration of aesthetic goods, we study wine journalism in Germany over time. This enables us to analyse the replacement of traditional criteria and the emergence of new criteria of aesthetic valuation in the wine world. The study is based on a systematic content analysis of the two most important German weeklies from 1947 to 2008. We can show that wine reporting shifts dramatically from an orientation towards French and domestic wines and a rather business-like approach to wine towards a more global orientation and a discourse of authenticity focusing on artisanal production, natural conditions of production and the winemaker as an individual personality/artist.
In this article, the invention of new forms of desire that target the gendered body in consumer culture is examined through the lens of the visual rhetoric of shop-window mannequins. The article is a result of cross-disciplinary research combining rhetorical and sociological theories and methods. Inspired by nonverbal methods and theories of embodiment, successive modernities and gender, the changing ethos and personae of mannequins from the 1930s until today are decoded. The shop window could be seen as a microcosm of consumer culture and is, therefore, interesting to study over time to unveil its shifting ideals. The empirical data consist of over 1000 pictures of window displays. Questions that are asked in analysing the empirical material are the following: (1) What ethos and personae do the shop-window mannequins nonverbally express? (2) How do the ethos and personae they nonverbally express change during the transformation of modernity? and (3) Are there any differences between the ethos and personae nonverbally expressed by the male and female mannequins, as well as within each gender? In the two first sections, a theoretical understanding of the concepts of ethos and persona as forms of embodiment that emerge through the interaction between the shop-window mannequins and the consumer is developed. In the third section, the empirical technique that has been used to capture the ethos and personae expressed by the shop-window mannequins is treated. In the fourth section, the notion of successive modernities is introduced, as the study aims to observe the transformation of the ethos and personae of male and female shop-window mannequins during the course of modernity. Also a gender perspective is added as the observation shows differences between and within each gender category. In the fifth section, the result of the analysis of the empirical materials is presented.
We present an integrated and more nuanced analysis of the observed tendency toward eclectic, fragmented, and paradoxical subcultures in contemporary society. Through a critical ethnographic approach, we investigate the factors contributing to the motives that impel people to seek subcultural membership, which leads to fragmentation. We interview people who are avid participants of music-based subcultures. Findings reveal that subcultural antagonism and identity politics are the two factors guiding fragmentation into subcultures in contemporary society. People seek solace in membership in multiple subcultures since each subculture provides a distinct escape from different oppressions perceived in the mainstream. This cultivates the impetus for fragmentation within subcultures. Subcultural fragmentation is voluntary, resistive, and subversive. The constant fragmentation and the multiplicity and fluidity of subcultural memberships give rise to what we call a radical subcultural mosaic referring to eclectic subcultural affiliation and composite subcultural memberships fermenting presentational discourses of resistance. Members of the radical subcultural mosaic seek agency and collectivity, creativity in heterogeneity, and propose novel alternative modes of living.
This article takes the idea of a critical approach to sustainable fashion and applies it to the practices of clothing designers and seamstresses in the Kallio neighborhood of Helsinki, Finland. These practices are described by the umbrella term "sustainable fashion." The main questions are how do clothing designers and seamstresses practice sustainable fashion, what challenges do they face, and how do they interpret these challenges. The article offers an empirical definition of "sustainable fashion," discusses innovative practices of sustainable fashion design in an urban context, considers the tensions within this production concept, and examines ways in which designers address and resolve such tensions. The article contributes to the discussion of a critical approach to fashion, sustainability, and entrepreneurialism in contemporary urban culture.
Community-Supported Agriculture programs have become a popular model for providing consumers with direct economic engagement with independent local organic farms. The degree to which Community-Supported Agriculture members are unified in their identity and consumer interests, however, is unclear. One possibility is that mostly individual interests including supposed nutritional benefits, superior taste, and avoidance of synthetic pesticides motivate Community-Supported Agriculture members. Another is that they are motivated more by environmental and economic concerns at the collective level. Our study engages this debate by analyzing emergent themes in consumers’ motivational narratives using interview data with 58 members of a Community-Supported Agriculture program in a large southwestern city in the United States. We find that Community-Supported Agriculture members are largely unified in their consumer orientation and pursue individualist and collectivist goals equally. In other words, Community-Supported Agriculture members are neither primarily altruistic nor egoistic consumers, but they approach their consumption as a holistic act. Specifically, they emphasize environmental issues and a commitment to sustainability through local organic consumption as a pathway to individual health. This suggests that an internally homogeneous, yet multidimensional, framework constitutes the motivational structure of local organic food consumption. We argue this framework aligns with an emerging eco-habitus exhibited in environmentally conscious market fields that translate into both collective and individual benefits.
Scholars remain divided on the possibilities (and limitations) of conceptualizing social change through a consumer-focused, "shopping for change," lens. Drawing from framing theory and the concept of the democratic imagination, we use a case study of "eat-local" food activism to contribute to this debate. We ask two questions: first, how do activists in the local food movement come to diagnose and critique the conventional industrial food system? and second, what roles do they envision for participants in the sustainable food movement? We address these questions by drawing from activist interview data (n = 57) and participant observation of the eat-local movement in three Canadian cities. Our findings illuminate a mixed picture of possibilities and limitations for consumer-based projects to foster social change. On the one hand, the diagnostic frames presented by food activists suggest skills in critical thinking, attention to structural injustice, and widespread recognition of the importance of collective mobilization. This framing suggests a politically thick democratic imagination among eat-local activists. In contrast, when it comes to thinking about prescriptions for change, activist understandings draw from individualistic and market-oriented conceptualizations of civic engagement, which indicates a relatively thin democratic imagination. These findings demonstrate that despite the sophisticated understandings and civic commitment of movement activists, the eat-local movement is limited by a reliance on individual consumption as the dominant pathway for achieving eco-social change.
The need for self-expression influences individuals in their preferences for goods and how they obtain them. One way for individuals to express themselves is through the prosumption of original unique goods. It is explained how the traditional trade-off between the originality and economy of such goods can be addressed through applications of artificial intelligence. However, although applications of artificial intelligence can transcend the originality/economy trade-off, they cannot transcend differences between cultures that value scarcity and cultures that value sharing. Nonetheless, applications of artificial intelligence can expand human self-expression because they can reduce barriers, such as lack of production skills, to prosumers realizing their own original ideas. With reference to technologies’ cultural domestication, it is explained that rather than artificial intelligence being either a miracle or a monster, the potential of artificial intelligence is mediated by multiple considerations.
This article asks the question, "How do Western men who travel to Thailand to pay for sex with Thai women morally justify their actions?" In order to answer this, the study frames the question in terms of debates about "dirty work" and introduces the concept of "dirty customers" to analyze sex tourists and to highlight the potential stigma and moral taint involved in their engagement with sex workers. The research methodology involved content analysis of website discourse among Western men who visit Thailand for paid sex; examining their discussions and debates, and thereby identifying key themes and patterns in their exchanges. The study found that although sex work can arguably be categorized as "dirty work," sex tourists resist such characterizations of sex work and of their role in it. The article thereby analyses how sex tourist discourse neutralizes external moralities of stigma and shame. It shows why neutralization is significant for understanding how sex tourism is sustained as an industry and how it is significant at the theoretical level for our understanding of "dirty work" and "dirty customers" as analytical concepts.
By innovatively combining insights from research on cultural consumption, socialization and nationalism, this study is one of the first empirical studies to shed more light on role of parental socialization in domestic and foreign cultural consumption of films, books and music. Similar to previous studies on parental socialization of highbrow and lowbrow cultural consumption, parents’ cultural socialization when respondents were in their formative years (i.e. parental domestic cultural consumption) is relevant for respondents’ domestic and foreign cultural consumption later in life. Parents’ national behaviour during their children’s formative years is related to the respondents’ positive nationalist attitudes, which, in turn, is associated with respondents’ domestic film and music consumption. Parental socialization plays a less important role in domestic book consumption, indicating that in less diverse cultural markets, other socialization influences (such as school) might be playing a role as well. Adding to the debate on the influence of parental socialization over the life course, we found indications that the effects of parental socialization on domestic consumption were weaker for older compared to younger people. This suggests the importance of parental socialization and the varying ways in which it is associated with domestic cultural consumption.
Anti-consumption literature focuses on consumers’ reasons for avoiding certain products or brands emphasizing consumers’ symbolic and/or political reasons for avoidance. Consumers’ choices have assumedly been voluntary. In contrast, this article discusses anti-consumption as a less explicitly political but also less voluntary form of anti-consumption, termed non-consumption. The empirical data consist of nine in-depth interviews with Danish pregnant women and new mothers regarding potentially ‘risky’ products. The article shows how their avoidance of certain forms of consumption reflects their struggle to perceive themselves – and be perceived by others – as competent mothers(-to-be). Risk is avoided, minimized, modified or balanced against prevailing habits and discourses of womanhood such as the risk of parabens against ideals of beauty when using cosmetic products. The article contributes to the anti-consumption literature by offering insights into the highly normative but less explicitly political field of constrained consumption reflected in the everyday micro-consumption practices of Danish pregnant women and new mothers.
This article analyzes women’s images in Brazilian magazines aiming to understand the logic behind the construction of notions of female beauty, health, and wellbeing. More precisely, it investigates how magazines associate an extensive array of goods to women’s bodies, sustaining a permanent logic of consumption. At the explicit level of images, magazines express novelty, promote innovations, and offer ever-new possibilities for readers to accomplish strong, slim, and forever young bodies. However, the analysis suggests the existence and operation of an underlying recurrent pattern that intends to classify products and services according to female body fragments in a process analogous to the system known as totemism. Finally, this work indicates that the ideological project of magazines is to create an unreachable woman model forever translated into consumer goods.
This article connects existing mobility biographies research with social practice inquiries into the dynamics of consumption and examines the potential of a biographic, practice-centred approach for researching everyday practices. Following a critical review of the benefits and limitations of existing research on mobility biographies, the article explores some key ways in which a practice theory approach can be employed to reframe and extend how dynamics of mobility over the life course can be conceptualised and analysed. A key feature of the discussion is a consideration of the ways in which the concepts of practice and career can broaden investigations of practice biographies to include various perspectives and scales. The article then outlines the development and application of a biographic, practice-centred methodology which was employed in an ongoing mobility biographies study based in Ireland. In demonstrating the potential of this approach for researching practice careers across the life course, empirical data relating to an individual’s career-in-car-driving are presented and discussed. The article concludes that, despite some limitations, practice-centred biographic approaches offer potential for addressing some unanswered questions regarding mobility practices.
This Journal of Consumer Culture Special Issue reviews core perspectives of touring consumption as a means to explore tourism and mobilities as categories of meta-analysis for consumption and consuming. It advances theory and research on various kinds of ‘touring’ that shift towards the agencies of the tourist/traveller as consumer and consumption as being embodied as part of everyday practice in transitional states of touring. What becomes evident is the incorporation of co-consumptive practices based on a reflexive touring, especially in how we consume, authenticate and experience. The objectives for the special issue include (1) a critical understanding of how the material and imagined worlds intersect through commodification processes in touring contexts, (2) an in-depth appreciation of how touring consumption may contribute to our understanding of mobile and fluid states of consumption practices and (3) a critical insight into the expanding implications of how the everyday is being shaped by touring. A brief summary of the six articles that follow appears in this introduction.
Based on a mobile ethnography of tourism and pilgrimage in the Himalayan region, this article interprets performances and imaginaries of Western travellers as a meta-commentary on late modern life. Being typically critical of consumer culture, Himalayan travellers often demonstrated positive yet naive appraisal and nostalgia for places and people perceived as non-modern, natural and authentic. Such eco-utopian imaginaries are consistent with media representations of the region and the wider discourse of reflexive modernity. While Himalayan journeys are often inspired and oriented by a search for authenticity and the seduction of difference, such valued ideals are contested by the same late capitalist conditions that make encounters with the Other and global mobility possible. Tourist consumers thus seek to capture authentic objects of desire before they are destroyed, while paradoxically contributing to their destruction in the process. At the same time, it is shown how the quest for authenticity exposes travellers to the possibility of other, less consuming and more sustainable forms of life.
This article aims to explain the process through which the fashion phenomenon creates city representations. The city is thus examined by means of a framework of tourism practices and related consumer patterns. Consequently, fashion is also understood as a consumer approach that influences the production of consumer patterns. Three perspectives reflect the ways in which representations are constructed and emphasise the possibility of reorganising space and creating consumer scripts. Drawing on examples of the representations of Paris and Amsterdam, this article explains variations in representations that are dependent on the fashion phenomenon’s focus, the type of tourist practices and access to tourist activities. Suggestions are provided for further investigation of the interdependency between institutional organisations and their influence on represented cities.
Each year, millions of people from around the world visit former extermination camps, ghetto memorials, and other museums and monuments dedicated to the remembrance of the Holocaust. Constituting a vast population of so-called "dark tourists," these travelers are frequently characterized by researchers as consumers of macabre spectacles, susceptible to sensationalized and inauthentic representations of historical events. But does Holocaust tourism automatically position its participants as naïve consumers of a commodified version of history? Based on field research conducted at numerous sites of Holocaust remembrance, this article considers how Holocaust tourists exercise agency, especially through the practice of photography. Through such agency, tourists to Holocaust memorial sites become active producers of historical knowledge as they generate their own representations of historical trauma. Ultimately, Holocaust tourists reflect on the authentic and inauthentic dimensions of their experiences, hold tourist sites accountable for the representations on display, and become stewards of collective memory.
Since the 1960s, feminist movements have emphasized that men and women should be seen as equal in their roles as parents, breadwinners, and citizens. This conception is not confirmed by the images produced in advertising. This article presents an analysis of alcohol-related advertisements published in Finnish, Italian, and Swedish women’s magazines from the 1960s to the 2000s. The advertisements are approached as performative texts in which gender is made visible "here and now" by placing women in particular consumer positions relative to private or public spheres and by associating specific kinds of gender expectations and norms that reflect women’s shifting responsibilities and pleasures. The article asks what kind of drinking-related identities have been portrayed as desirable in women’s magazine advertisements over the past few decades and how they have changed as we move closer to the present day. The analysis reveals both continuity and variability in alcohol-related consumer identities in advertisements in Finnish, Italian, and Swedish women’s magazines. It shows that as Finland, Italy, and Sweden have developed from modern societies to late-modern societies, women’s responsibilities and pleasures have expanded from the traditional domain of the private sphere into multiple new areas. The expansion of women’s identities has occurred differently in each geographical area. This does not, however, mean that the traditional gender norms have disintegrated and been replaced by equal gender norms. Rather, it seems that traditional gender norms continue to be reproduced with varying nuances in alcohol-related advertising.
This article applies social practice theory to study the emergence of sustainable consumption practices like bicycling among the new middle classes of Bangalore, India. I argue that expansions of bicycling practices are dependent on the construction of defensive distinctions, which I define as distinctions that draw equally on lifestyle-based and ethics-based discourses to normalize bicycling among Bangalore’s middle classes. With their environmental discourses and signage, middle-class cyclists make claims to being ethical actors and ecological citizens concerned about global environments. Their high-end bicycles and special gear enable them to maintain their social status in personal and professional circles, despite adopting what is an essentialized and stigmatized mobility practice in a social context where personal automobiles are a dominant symbol of respectability and propertied citizenship. These defensive distinctions are anchored in communities that facilitate social learning, skill-building, and the creation of collective identities. I highlight the importance of considering the role of ethical discourses in consolidating "low-status" social practices among "high-status" class fractions and discuss the implications of promoting sustainable consumption through the othering of the poor. By applying a social practice analytic to study middle-class bicycling practices, this article makes a significant contribution to the growing literature that investigates the applicability of practice-based approaches to environmental behaviors and sustainable consumption in a novel context.
This article makes a case for the inclusion of sport hunting in studies of consumer culture. This argument is advanced through an analysis of "the hunting industry" in North America. The hunting industry comprises a vast commercial network, exemplified by specialty retailers and advertiser-supported media involved in the marketing of hunting-related merchandise. The analysis contrasts environmental and cultural conservation, on the one hand, with consumerism and commercial media, on the other. These themes are situated historically and theoretically and then examined empirically by focusing on cable television channels devoted to hunting and on Cabela’s, an international retail chain that sells branded hunting and fishing equipment and sponsors media productions. Based on consideration of these venues, including a description of Cabela’s stores, which are renowned for their size and spectacular attractions, it is argued that a commercial industry built around hunting manifests contradictions between conservationism and consumerism. Connections between hunting culture and other aspects of consumer culture – such as food systems, environmental concerns, self-reliance, and authenticity – are also elaborated.
Place is a key driver in the formation and maintenance of cultural lifestyles. Yet, place remains largely ignored in scholarly studies of cultural omnivorousness. After establishing whether there are different modes of omnivorousness as well as distinguishing between other cultural lifestyles, this article then takes a first step in readdressing this anomaly by examining whether clustering exists at the regional level in England. Using a methodologically innovative approach to simultaneously capture latent class typologies and between-group heterogeneity at the area scale, our findings illustrate how place is vital to consumption habits, particularly to voracious omnivores. We argue that the underlying mechanism behind these cultural patterns at the area level is contextual in nature, and in the case of voracious omnivores, primarily due to the supply of cultural items and the importance of likeminded individuals in active networks.
Experiences of place and mobility play central roles not only in what was traditionally understood as tourism but also in the broader practices of travelling and visiting sites and sights. On the one hand, such experiences are performed to an extent where it is difficult to isolate the sites and movements experienced per se, since visitors and travellers take part in ‘doing’ places and mobility. On the other, experience sites and routes stand out with specific traces and characteristics affording some – and not other – experiences. This article discusses conceptual understandings that may help to better analyse what it takes to perform tourist sites. Following a discussion of Walter Benjamin’s way of understanding experiences as Erlebnisse, I suggest that ideas about multiplicity and absence–presence in Actor–Network Theory can develop new insights into how place and mobility are experienced in several layers of reality. To better understand experiences taking place in intersections between realities, J.R.R. Tolkien’s concept of how real enchantment produces a Secondary World suggests that we see fantasy as real, and this proposition is compared to Georg Simmel’s more modernist suggestion that experiences (Erlebnisse) are practised as living adventures, where intersecting worlds are not apart from each other. These practices are performed in restless mobilities among places, where the connections and hints between place and mobility are central in making absence–presence tensions produce experiences. Finally, the article discusses how the analysis of experience is related to the professional, experimental work of building a tourist attraction, exemplified by the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde.
Tourists undertake a process of re-orientation that is particular to each destination and respond to encounters with new and unfamiliar environments. Certain destinations, such as those with unique landscapes, nature or ecological environments, induce a socio-cultural imaginary that primes tourists for what kind of experience they might consume. Large, immersive landscapes and climates congeal with expectations of what each destination requires in order to navigate through it. Common bearings of distance and scale are skewed as tourists are positioned within immersive conditions that constitute the environmental surround. In such moments, idealised and preconceived tourist experiences contrast with the actual events unfolding and heightened sensory awareness intensifies the subtle and collaborative negotiations. Utilising my own first-person experiences while transiting within Nepal and Iceland, I reflect on moments where tourists re-orient with the environment in collaborative ways. I argue that by repositioning our individual expectations of tourist experiences in favour of transitions with the environment, potential arises for new co-consumptive and collaborative practices.
This article proposes a spatial approach to tourism and consumption as it emerges through leisure shopping. The notion ‘itineraries of consumption’ is offered to underline the emergence of tourists’ multiple shopping patterns in a single tourist destination. Itineraries of consumption produce, connect and transform shoppingscapes and tourismscapes. Tourism consumption research has expanded over the past 15 years in the social sciences and humanities. This article continues previous debates on consumer culture and tourism studies by debating about the nexus between shopping and tourism as a co-productive realm. In particular, the joint performances of tourists, retailers and tour operators in Rimini (Italy) are considered as a way to understand leisure shopping in a location that used to be primarily associated with seaside-oriented mass tourism. The geometries and geographies of power evident in emerging tourism networks are also discussed.
Cosmetic enhancement technologies have been subject to extended sociological and feminist critique, but botulinum neurotoxins (Botox) have been sidelined in this discussion. This has occurred despite Botox’s popularity and accessibility as a non-surgical cosmetic procedure. While Botox shares many similarities with cosmetic enhancement technologies such as cosmetic surgery, we argue that the fields and the socio-spatial organisation of Botox – where Botox is performed and by whom, which we collectively call contextual Botox – not only differentiate it from other cosmetic enhancement technologies but expose how Botox has gone beyond normalisation to become hypernormalised, a domesticated, mundane technology that has largely disappeared into the flows and routines of everyday life. In addition, Botox is a distinct medical and social practice that is multifaceted, being determined by the contexts in which it is found and the forms of cultural capital therein. It is for these reasons, in addition to being the most popular form of cosmetic enhancement, that Botox should be critically scrutinised.
The recent contexts of financial and economic crises have fostered discourses and initiatives for encouraging people to save. Despite there being, for the sake of sustainability, a generalized support to educational measures for increasing savings from early childhood, a complete understanding of why and how people save has not yet been attained. The absence of sociological attention to the engagement of consumers in such financial decisions is particularly scant. This article takes the case-study of a financial education programme for children to suggest future directions for the sociological investigation of savings. Literature review and the analysis of a Portuguese programme revealed a clear absence of sociological insights in financial education programmes’ contents and procedures. However, sociological research has already come to relevant findings about social aspects and processes of financial decisions that allow for a better understanding of how consumers, and children in particular, learn about and behave in relation to money, consumption and savings. In our view, the study of savings should pay more attention to several adjoining, concurrent and complimentary practices encompassed in the consumption process. This article contributes not only to fill in the literature gaps identified by the study, but also to counter-offer non-judgemental research regarding current literature on the subject.
This article provides an analysis of two leading specialist wine magazines, Decanter and Wine Spectator, and the codification and legitimation of a ‘taste for the particular’. Such media of connoisseurship are key institutions of evaluation and legitimation in an age of omnivorousness, but are often overlooked in research that foregrounds the agency of tasters and neglects the conventionalization of tasting norms and devices. The wine field has undergone a process of democratization typical of omnivorousness more broadly: former elite/low boundaries (operationalized in the article through the Old/New World dichotomy) are ignored, and a discerning attitude is encouraged for wines from a diversity of regions. Drawing on the magazines’ audience profile and market position data, and a content analysis of advertising and editorial content from 2008 and 2010, I examine the differences in the use of four legitimation frames (transparency, heritage, genuineness and external validation) for the provenance elements of Old and New World wines. The analysis suggests that the Old World – typically French – notion of terroir, on which the traditional Old/New World boundary rested, has been democratized through the particularities of provenance. Yet, the analysis also reveals continuing differences between the two categories (including greater emphasis on the heritage and external validation of Old World context of production, and on the transparency and genuineness of New World producers), and the preservation of established hierarchies of taste through the application of terroir to New World wines, which retain the Old World and France as their master referent.
This article explores the implications of conceptualising, designing and implementing experimental sites seeking to support more sustainable home-based eating practices, or HomeLabs for brevity. Building on earlier phases of practice-oriented participatory backcasting and transition framework construction, the HomeLabs involved collaboration with public, private and civil society sectors and with the members of participating households. These collaborations identified a suite of supportive socio-technological, informational and governance interventions that mimicked, as far as possible, the characteristics of promising practices for sustainable eating developed through backcasting and transition planning. The implemented interventions enabled householders to question, disassemble and reconfigure their eating practices onto more sustainable pathways across the integrated practices of food acquisition, storage, preparation and waste management. This process generated manifold insights into household eating practices, and this article focuses specifically on key outcomes of the HomeLabs, and the significance of social context, social relations and micropolitics of everyday life in shaping those outcomes. In particular, the HomeLabs findings reinforce calls to connect, combine and align product, regulatory, informational and motivational supports across the interdependent practices of eating (acquisition, storage and preparation and waste recovery) to optimise transitions towards sustainability. Offering a lens to interrogate interventions for sustainable food consumption in the home, this article provides a novel exercise in operationalising social practice theory.
This article examines how cultural capital shapes the ways Turkish women, both religiously covered and not covered, experience their ‘presented self’ in social interactions. The analysis draws on 44 in-depth interviews conducted as part of a larger project on embodiment of class in Turkey, using the parts where the interviewees reflect on the repercussions of different clothing and adornment tastes. It approaches clothing as an embodied practice and uses the conceptual tools Bourdieu offers to analyse the link between women’s appearance-driven experiences and wider class-cultural processes. Consistent with its theoretical framework, it examines the experiencing of tastes by analysing women’s emotions. The analysis demonstrates that, regardless of the volumes of capital they hold, the majority of the sample presume that the ‘dressed body’ does have value and enhances or limits opportunities, suggesting the relevance of the term ‘capital’ to refer to such embodied competence, as Bourdieu did. Moreover, some of the emotional responses are found to be more common among culturally cultivated interviewees of both Islamic-leaning and secular fractions while others only appear among those having limited access to cultural and economic resources. Interview excerpts show that the aesthetic categorisations made by the culturally advantaged, regardless of their religious orientation, are internalised by those who suffer from such hierarchies most, highlighting the role of class culture–driven symbolic violence in maintaining inequalities. The material is then contextualised within the class dynamics in Turkey, where self-fashioning has remained a value-laden domain since the beginning of the country’s top-to-bottom modernisation. Focusing on how tastes are lived in the everyday, this article reveals the subtle processes that manifest and reproduce class privileges and calls for an emphasis on the repercussions of embodying particular tastes, which could enhance our understanding of taste, power and cultural exclusion more directly than interrogations of the correlations between taste and class position.
Throughout North America, the open air public feasting and drinking that surrounds an athletic event, most commonly football, is labeled "tailgating." In this article, we explore how consumers infuse their place-creating activity with a well-modulated aura of revelry that energizes tailgating without jeopardizing either its immediate or long-term viability. To an appreciable degree, tailgating is about celebrating and preserving the communal bond enkindled in the primal hearth. We characterize tailgating as a "ludic foodscape" in an attempt to capture the kinetic, multisensory backdrop and atmosphere of playful consumer creativity against which the revelry of feasting and drinking unfolds. Our study is located at the intersection of inquiries into foodscapes, brandscapes, and landscapes. Among the interpretive themes emerging from our ethnographic analysis, we have implicated three in particular in the generation and modulation of the revelry that distinguishes tailgating from some of its more bacchanalian cousins: cuisine, carnivalesque, and canalization. These themes can be understood as social regulators that literally govern tailgating, endowing it with just the right amount of license to give it a festive edge without resulting in too disruptive or dysfunctional an atmosphere. We unpack the three cogs in this mechanism and analyze their relevance to the atmosphere pervading the sites of tailgating.
A key component of how human beings organize their lives is how they perceive and make sense of what it means to be human, that is, their subjectivity. Human subjectivity has taken on different dominant forms across history, the consumer being one of the most dominant contemporary forms. Based on current and potential trends, we argue, with a deliberate tone of optimism about transformative potential of the human condition, that if the contemporary iconographic culture is transcended, there is the possibility of a subject that transcends the consumer, a construer subject. In contrast to what largely exists in extant literature – extrapolating from the consumer subjectivity to posthuman subjects – we envision the possibility of an epochal cultural change that will provide the ground for a construer subjectivity to emerge. We offer some preliminary insights into what such subjectivity may entail.
This article develops a theory of branded fitness within the United States through a focus on two of its most visible examples: CrossFit and Bikram yoga. We argue that highly successful forms of branded fitness such as these give insight into the enormous power and permeation of branded sensibilities into everyday life – in this case, going so far as to inform how we relate to, and attempt to modify, our own bodies. However, we argue that a close examination of branded fitness likewise reveals the inconsistencies, trouble spots, and extraordinary limits of the brand as a way to build a fitness movement – which we contend is instructive in thinking about how branding more generally relates to mediation, community, and cultural commodification.
Although we know that authenticity work can add value to cultural products, little research explores efforts to claim the inauthenticity of products in commercial markets. The question arises, how does the critical reception of a popular culture phenomenon employ a form of authenticity work to determine the cultural products eligible – or ineligible – for the status of "authentic?" This research seeks to answer this question through a comprehensive content analysis of 328 documents from 1998 to 2012 related to the late artist Thomas Kinkade. We put forth the term inauthenticity work to explain how cultural intermediaries defined cultural products as antithetical to authenticity. Even in the face of immense commercial success, intermediaries constructed Kinkade’s work as exemplifying inauthenticity, defining his work as mass produced, insincere, escapist, and oppositional to high art. Such inauthenticity work reveals that even if there is greater variance in cultural products eligible for authentication, intermediaries uphold culture boundaries through critically maintaining a cultural realm of inauthenticity.
Organic food consumption is associated with "citizen-consumer" practice, which is an act of promoting different aspects of social and ecological responsibility and the integration of ethical considerations in daily practices such as eating. This article analyzes aspects of organic food consumption in Israel and the symbolic meanings given to it by its consumers. The study shows how practices attributed to ethical eating culture are used in identity construction, social status manifestation, and as a means to demonstrate openness to global cultural trends. Organic food consumption is carried out as part of a symbolic use of ethical values and its adaptation to the local Israeli cultural context. In addition, organic food consumption patterns are revealed as fitting the cultural logic of globalization, which spread in the last decades in Israel. Analysis of the socio-cultural aspects related to organic food consumption points to the polysemy embodied in the term citizen-consumer and shows how the actual implementation of this term in Israel is based on the assimilation of cosmopolitan meanings.
Fan communities represent a major interest for researchers of consumer culture. However, their study has confronted scholars with a fundamental problem: how can one reconcile critical distance with being sufficiently integrated within a given fan community to gather reliable information? The phrase ‘aca-fan’ has become a familiar designation for scholars who are also fans. However, while the theoretical implications of the aca-fan’s posture have been widely discussed, conceptual, practical and methodological modalities remain to be unified. Shifting the focus away from strictly theoretical debates, we propose an operative framework for the role of the aca-fan. We consider the position of aca-fans as a node between academic and fan communities, familiar with both languages and therefore facilitating the process of integration of knowledge and take into account the relations that the aca-fans can have with the field, models and materials they collect, as well as the hierarchy between academic and fan sources of knowledge, providing practical suggestions to acknowledge various degrees of authority of fan voices. Finally, since aca-fans have an important control of, and responsibility for, the fields, models and data they study and the discourses they cite, the implications of aca-fans’ works for the perception of fan communities by society will be analysed. This article supports the fact that a rationalised position of aca-fans could not only be an optimal method to study communities of fan but also an intrinsically ethical way to approach these large communities of consumers.
This conceptual article examines George Ritzer’s concept of prosumption in the context of lifelong learning in the United Kingdom. Ritzer’s references to prosumption as a form of eternal return of a ‘primal act’, which draw on the work of Friedrich Nietzsche and Gilles Deleuze, introduce some ambiguity into the concept. This ambiguity echoes a certain polarization in the debate about co-creation, especially regarding the nature of consumer participation in the creation of value, but it is central to defining the limits of consumer freedom and agency. Critical analysis of UK lifelong learning discourse shows how prosumption can work as a tool of control in this context, producing docile subjectivities, compliant forms of creative co-production and disposable ‘nothing’ products through repetition and a return of the same. Where prosumption is able to challenge this repetition, however, it involves creativity and the return of difference. These examples show how eternal return, ultimately, underpins prosumption’s claim to offer a valid description of emerging practices of prosuming lifelong learners.
This article portrays the way life insurance as a consumer device lives through kinship ties of care in London in order to harness the uncertainties and limits of mortality and loss. A life insurance policy is a private contract people subscribe to, along with paying monthly premiums, to get money if the policyholder dies unexpectedly. Based on ethnographic material of the life insurance market in London, this work aims to illustrate life insurance as a social and cultural practice that informs family relations in contemporary western society. For Londoners, taking a life insurance policy is an anticipatory action that helps families cope with the irreducible possibility of early death, controlling and sustaining caring relations across time among intimate kin. Through the transformation of the policyholder into an immortal (monetary) figure that extends relations beyond death, life insurance becomes a ‘technology of care’ that mediates and bonds intimate kin in absence, as well as a ‘technology of governance’ that creates new subjectivities in the form of privatized risk inside the family. As such, this article seeks to address the ethnographic understanding of an everyday consumer practice within a wider scope of neoliberal modes of governance in western society, taking into account the consequences that buying a life insurance has for both the people and their families. In doing so, this study also contributes to the comprehension of the life insurance market and its specific situatedness in a contemporary neoliberal reality.
This article addresses the aestheticization of traditional foods and the use of territorialization as a brand value for the promotion of products and services. Economy of quality is studied through a focus on the role that political institutions may have in promoting quality chains. Through document analysis, questionnaires, interviews, and focus groups, we consider the case of the quality brand, DegustiBo, promoted by the Province of Bologna, Italy. This initiative was developed to help local shops and restaurants find a source of common identity in the local territory. We consider actors’ narratives in defining, judging, and creating quality as related to the specific branding initiative, focusing on the way different descriptions of quality as related to ways of enacting territory are read and presented as performing authenticity. We explore how branding has been supported, realized, and responded to, concentrating on the encounter between consumers and producers. A focus on producers’ perceptions of consumer competence helps addressing the narrative asymmetry between consumers and producers, and the ways in which consumer rituals work as sites of knowledge transmission and conflict, defining the contours of an arena for the performance of concerted and contested notions such as traditional, local, and authentic food.
Digital convergence and Web 2.0 have led to the emergence of new forms of involvement and participation of consumers in the game industry. Prosumers are now participating in productive and decision-making structures at the highest level using collective financing model or crowdfunding. In this system, the traditional business relations based on hierarchy have undergone a major change repositioning the creative focus on the player. The top-down culture of game business becomes bottom-up participatory culture intervening mainly in game genres, topics, and mechanics. This research frames crowdfunding in the participatory culture and the conversion from consumer to prosumer-investor to later analyze the 10 most funded games on Kickstarter. A qualitative analysis focused on the ideology of crowdfunding discourses concludes that positive arguments for video games collective financing model develop an emancipatory-utopian framework, which is critical with publishers, libertarian with users, and melancholic-postmodern with the content developed in the past.
This article argues that the 2014 adoption of the US shopping tradition of Black Friday sales to stores and supermarkets in the United Kingdom and beyond represents an important point of enquiry for the social sciences. We claim that the importation of the consumer event, along with the disorder and episodes of violence that accompany it, are indicative of the triumph of liberal capitalist consumer ideology while reflecting an embedded and cultivated form of insecurity and anxiety concomitant with the barbaric individualism, social envy and symbolic competition of consumer culture. Through observation and qualitative interviews, this article presents some initial analyses of the motivations and meanings attached to the conduct of those we begin to understand as ‘extreme shoppers’ and seeks to understand these behaviours against the context of the social harms associated with consumer culture.
This article has three main objectives. Our first is to turn to sport as a particularly illuminating and revealing example of consumer culture in the making. Marketplace logic suffuses consumer culture, and exploring practices of fandom as performed thus becomes particularly revealing of the tensions and contradictions which are thrown up when passions collide with finance and branding strategies. Our second objective is to mobilise this insight to further research on brand communities through better situating social practices as entangled in this heady nexus of passions, power and cultural politics. Through a netnographic analysis of forum posts from Celtic Football Club’s notorious ‘Green Brigade’ ultras-style fan-group, we focus on how such social formations forge counter-identities, which act not in harmony with the larger brand ethos but serve to legitimate and affirm a counter-philosophy. As such, our final objective is to better understand the roles of brand agitator and brand heretic as key roles within this contested social formation. Fandom as dramatic ritual and social drama brings in its wake contradictions and tensions especially when it goes toe-to-toe with the forces of economics, branding and marketing strategy. Here, a counter-brand community as we reveal mobilises marketplace logic and appears to adopt their own practices of mimicking brand strategising for their own ends, or as they assert, ‘Let the people sing’.
One globalization paradigm argues that developing countries will increasingly resemble Western societies. Although influenced by Western trends, I argue that global consumerism will not make most Chinese abandon traditional values and adopt a different and totally Western consumer culture. This article, which is based on empirical evidence, stresses the role of culture and how it affects people’s strategies toward economic decision-making. I explore the changing values before and after the opening up policy, and how they influenced consumption patterns in different eras. The Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) in China was a campaign designed to pursue a purer form of communism and led to a distinctive set of cultural values and ideologies, resulting in unique consumption patterns. "Status goods" during this period were based on a person’s "revolutionary background" and loyalty to Chairman Mao, rather than on individual consumption preferences. After the opening up policy, consumer behavior moved closer to the patterns found in Western capitalist societies, but the mechanisms that drive this consumption are quite different. Chinese traditional values were challenged but did not disappear, and the impact of the Cultural Revolution also had a profound influence on those who lived through it. Contemporary Chinese consumers selectively choose certain cultural values from a range of options in order to legitimize their spending decisions.
Social media users who post restaurant reviews on the website Yelp.com act as both prosumers or produsers and "discursive investors" in gentrification. Their unpaid online reviews create cultural and financial value for individual restaurants and also construct a positive or negative image of their locations that may lead to economic investment. Moreover, Yelp reviewers show marked preferences in terms of race. Examining 7046 Yelp reviews of restaurants in a predominantly White-gentrifying and a predominantly Black-gentrifying neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY, shows far more reviewers draw attention to the urban locale when the majority of residents are Black. A framing analysis of 1056 reviews that mention the neighborhood indicates that most Yelp reviewers feel positive about the White neighborhood, where they consider the traditional Polish restaurants "authentic" and "cozy," while they feel negative about the Black neighborhood, which they criticize for a dearth of dining options and an atmosphere of dirt and danger. This language represents "discursive redlining" in the digital public realm, with Yelp reviewers contributing to taste-driven processes of gentrification and racial change.
This article takes the case studies of music and clothing collections in the home to explore the possibilities for developing comparative research into everyday consumption by focusing upon personal collections. Drawing on two empirical research projects, it challenges dominant understandings of collections as ‘special’ or separated off from daily practices by considering music and clothing collections as the site for everyday consumption practices as well as the locus of memories. Collections are reframed as ‘assemblages’ to explore the diverse materialities and temporalities that constitute the collections. Agency is distributed through the assemblage which allows for a problematisation of notions of individual consumer choice as the article explores the logics of the collections themselves. Focusing upon ‘collections’ paves the way for comparative work on different genres of consumption and to explore the diverse materialities of things and their relationalities. It widens our understanding of consumption to incorporate the use of things both in the enactment of daily life and which are kept or stored.
This article contributes to current debates on (un)sustainable mobility by re-conceptualising everyday travel as a set of consumption practices. Treating physical mobility as ‘consumption of distance’ with considerable social, ecological and economic consequences, the article’s theoretical focus moves beyond conventional approaches that have hitherto dominated transport research and policy in Europe and beyond. In addition, it demonstrates how a carefully operationalised practice-theoretical approach can shed new light on the social and material contingency of human (travel) behaviour. By transforming qualitative evidence from Ireland into an innovative typology of commuting practices, this article captures the importance of intermeshing social and material contexts for people’s everyday consumption of distance. Overall, we seek to add to the already significant body of literature that evaluates the suitability of practice-theoretical core concepts to the empirical study of everyday life.
Studies of mothering and consumption have primarily focussed on mothers to be and mothers of young children with little known about the intersection between consumption and mothering beyond the years of childhood dependence. This article argues that performances of mothering enacted through consumption do not end with children leaving home. Many women were consciously ‘Still being mother’, with consumption choices significant in the ways in which mothering identities were performed. The analysis of interviews from three studies of family life, living standards and consumption in older age identified three constructs of the ‘good’ mothering of adult children. Aspects of the ‘provisioning mother’ were evident in providing for children through gifts, material and financial support. Appropriate consumption practices by adult children demonstrated the ‘role model mother’ who has taught her children well. Mothers also framed themselves as ‘independent mothers’ who had sufficient social and financial resources to not burden children, hinting not only at their own ‘controlled’ consumption practices but also at future changes in mothering and consumption that might need to be managed as they aged. These mothering identities were not static and were exhibited differently across a range of living standards. ‘Still being mother’ mattered, but the resources available to women to shape these identities through consumption practices differed according to their material circumstances, expectations and familial relations, which had implications for their identity as independent mothers and children.
In this article, we examine how Disney participates in an affective economy through an analysis of how it engages with pleasure, and ask questions about what Disney’s manufacturing and selling of pleasure does, pedagogically. We posit that Disney’s pedagogies of pleasure, which operate from the notion that escape is attainable via the pleasurable experiences offered at Disney parks, teach us how to be particular kinds of Disney subjects who escape into safe and controlled forms of pleasure – these escape fantasies offer a way for consumers to disavow the racism and white supremacy that characterize Western humanist and colonialist projects. Then, through a reading of Escape From Tomorrow, a recent surrealist horror film that explores the "dark side" of the "Happiest Place on Earth," we analyze how pleasure and the false promise of escape from conflict are illustrated in the film. We take up Nietzsche’s concept of "eternal recurrence" to explore the inescapability of our own complicity in the perpetuation of white, heteropatriarchal narratives through our repetitive affective engagements with Disney. Finally, we explore how an acceptance of inescapability demands that we acknowledge how we are complicit in the perpetuation of white supremacy through our engagements with Disney’s pedagogies of pleasure. We argue that this acceptance is not a nihilistic trap that suggests only an unbearable despair but an active choice that holds productive potential for acknowledging and exposing the racist myths of Western humanism perpetuated through Disney’s pedagogies of pleasure.
Non-medical ‘four-dimensional’ ultrasound is commercially advertised as promoting maternal ‘bonding’, providing reassurance and tendering entertaining experiences for expectant parents. Despite the proliferation of this technology, it has not yet been subjected to sufficient social scientific attention. Drawing on an ethnography of a private prenatal clinic in the United Kingdom, I explore how four-dimensional scans, providing detailed real-time images of a foetus, have transformed the prenatal clinic into a site of consumption. I argue that the discourse present in four-dimensional scans and the materiality of the clinic achieve two things. First, they blur the boundary between clinical and non-clinical practices. This must be carefully negotiated by professionals who perform serious emotional labour to balance the delicate tension of offering expertise and medically based reassurance with providing a joyful experience for parents as consumers. Second, the four-dimensional scan and clinic’s materiality promote the notion of ‘perfection’, particularly around the idealised family and future body. I conclude by reflecting on how such non-medical technologies play a central role in the commoditisation of pregnancy, bodies, the family and prenatal care in an increasingly consumer-led market.
Central to debates concerned with societal transition towards low-carbon living is the imperative to encourage individual subjects to shift their behaviours to support less consumptive ways of life: eating less meat, consuming less energy and water, and wasting less of what we do consume. Exploring narratives derived from 30 interviews with householders living in and around a UK city, this article considers the dynamics surrounding consumption, unpacking the notion that consumers act as agents of choice. Drawing on accounts of daily routines, the article pays close attention to the complexity of social, cultural and material factors that shape narratives of daily life, where food emerges as a core organising principle. This suggests that food practice provides a nexus point around which change can be more effectively conceptualised for public policies aimed at inculcating more sustainable ways of life. That is, through an understanding of food practice, we can explore means of locking and unlocking wider practices deemed unsustainable.
Since the beginning of the millennium, several Brazilian telenovelas have been partially produced abroad, incorporating in their storylines protagonists from different ethnic and religious backgrounds, exotic customs, foreign jargon, and attractive tourist locations in Middle Eastern and south-east Asian countries. This article aims to contribute to the debate regarding the asymmetries in media contents flow from "central" to "developing" countries, through analyzing the production of Brazilian "transnational" telenovelas broadcasted during 2001–2012. Rejecting the media imperialism thesis as formulated in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as the more optimistic approaches pointing to the erosion of persistent asymmetries in the production and reception of television contents, this study examines the economic, cultural, and political forces driving the production and consumption of television contents outside the Anglo-Saxon axis, pointing to the cooperation, conflicts, and negotiations between television producers, national audiences, international publics, and private actors.
The rapid developments in Vietnam since the economic reforms (doi moi) initiated in 1986 have led to a transformation of urban mobility. In less than 20 years, motorbike ownership in the country increased tenfold, and there are now 4 million motorbikes in Hanoi alone. While the two-wheelers dominate traffic, car ownership has increased rapidly in the last decade. This article approaches the consumption of cars and motorbikes in the Vietnamese capital from a social practice theory perspective. It particularly emphasises material conditions for practices in terms of systems of provision, available technology and infrastructure. This emphasis, the article argues, is necessary to account for large-scale changes in consumption in a context of rapid economic development. These conditions, however, have co-evolved with mobility practices and the local geography of consumption. Private cars in many ways represent a break with the dominant two-wheeled conditions and practices, but bring along social distinction, safety and comfort. In turn, a new automobility regime is emerging in the outskirts of Hanoi. The article analyses these material, social and bodily pillars of practices, and based on fieldwork in Hanoi approaches the changing urban mobility in the interplay between development and everyday life.
Drawing upon ethnographic data, this article discusses the adoption of technologies into everyday life in People’s Poland, in the wider theoretical context of the consumer revolution or a shift in consumption patterns towards fashion. There were two mechanisms of the consumer revolution in People’s Poland: collective usefulness and modern hedonism. For the mechanism of collective usefulness, the main factors in the shift in consumption patterns were the state-controlled propaganda of ‘progress’ and the domestication of technology. Household appliances were adopted as necessities that helped people fulfil their needs, in line with the idea of ‘progress’ propagated by the authorities of People’s Poland in the post-war period. In the process of the domestication of technology, customarily female activities were changing into flexible practices of using household appliances driven by fashion. In the case of modern hedonism, the main factor in the shift towards fashion was the ‘advertising’ of a Western standard of living in American films shown on television in the 1960s. The course of the consumer revolution was diversified by gender, social class and generation.
Social Creativity and Group Affirmation are two strategies by which individuals who identify with a sporting activity, team, group or individual may protect that sense of identification in light of negative events. This article explores the use of such strategies through examining reactions to doping allegations surrounding Lance Armstrong to explain how members of two brand communities (one based on the brand of Armstrong as a cyclist and the other on the brand of Armstrong as a cancer survivor) maintain a sense of allegiance. Through undertaking a netnographic approach, six strategies were identified by members of these communities, three of which could be identified as Social Creativity Strategies (Lance Armstrong as ‘superhuman’, the notion of cycling as a ‘level playing field’, Armstrong as scapegoat) and three as Group Affirmation (Armstrong as a continuing inspiration, the Armstrong legacy and denial). The two brand communities demonstrated differing patterns of maintenance, with those within the cycling community focusing more upon Social Creativity strategies, whereas those members of the Armstrong as cancer survivor brand tended to focus upon Group Affirmation strategies.
By nuancing the politics of consumption in the context of austerity, this article highlights the rise of economic nationalism and the reconfiguration of consumer cultures at the aftermath of the global financial crisis. As it argues, in the context of Greece, three types of consumer culture have manifested; these are evoking consumption as resilience, resistance or reinforcement. This work focuses on the latter through the phenomenon of ethnocentric consumption, which is part and parcel of economic nationalism. Economic nationalism can be explored through promotion of ethnocentric consumption and is demonstrable both in the inception and constitution of nation states, but also in times of crisis. This article critically appraises ethnocentric consumption as consumption based on ethnocentric criteria (natural resources, ownership, production, manufacturing, distribution and labour force). In the context of the crisis in Greece, economic nationalism has become manifest as a solution to the national economy. The specific case chosen is a citizens’ movement and its campaign for the promotion of ethnocentric consumption. A close examination of the campaign (We Consume What We Produce) reveals the historical alignment of the state’s and citizens’ economic interests, the reverberation of state narrative from the 1980s and exclusionary nationalism which is also used by fascists. Campaigns for ethnocentric consumption limit the creativity of consumer politics. First, this phenomena appears to be an alternative vehicle for political parties. Second, it is tied around a normative narrative of economic recovery, which is particularly mythological. Third, its overall target is to maximise competitiveness on a global scale, and finally, it demonstrates a densely dangerous relationship with economic nationalism. Yet, it is important to situate this phenomenon within the context of consumer cultures under austerity, especially as more creative modalities of social economy initiatives by grassroots groups have been re-socialising the market.
This article explores the digital exchange and moral ordering of sustainable and ethical consumption in online Freecycle groups. Through interactive exchanges in digital (online posts) and material (consumer items) modes, Freecycling blurs three common binaries in analyses of consumption: (1) consumption/production, (2) digital/material and (3) mainstream/alternative. Drawing on Ritzer’s notion of ‘implosions’ as well as practice theory, I show that Freecycling practices reimagine and reproduce both products and consumers, practising prosumption through mixed digital and material practices in a performative economy, and how mainstream and alternative ways of consuming are entangled in pursuit of more sustainable, ethical consumption. This challenges us to think beyond these traditional binaries and to conceptualise a more blurred, less analytically clean and more circular approach to studying consumption.
This article presents a qualitative discussion about the ways in which English-language media in South Africa labelled the Black middle class ‘new’ during the first decade of political freedom (the 1990s). The empirical approach is discursive, drawing on a corpus of archival media material in which the ‘new Black middle class’ is discussed and debated. The article argues that three key discursive trends are evident therein: the first claiming the new Black middle class as full of socio-economic potential (but also as immature and not capable of delivering on that potential), the second attempting to rehistoricize the Black middle class and the third accusing the class of materialism, greed and being ‘sell-outs’. These discursive themes are discussed in relation to relevant scholarly literature about ‘new’ middle classes. This article concludes that media narratives about the newness of the Black middle class were the site of the symbolic contestation and discursive construction of the consuming class in South Africa.
Music as a mechanism for social distinction is well established. Yet, perhaps more than any other form of cultural expression, it is music which has been systematically transformed by emerging technologies. From the gramophone, radio, cassette and CD, through to portable devices and shared through social media, music is in constant flux. To separate taste for music from its various acquisitional forms is to undermine its role in society. In this article, our aim is to integrate within taste and cultural consumption analysis a salient dimension, such as technologies to acquire music, conceptualized as modes of musical exchange and formats used to listen to music. We argue that these are components of musical consumption practices which enhance our understanding on how symbolic boundaries are shaped today. Using multiple factor analysis, this study provides a simultaneous analysis of musical tastes and technological engagement in Chile. We find that uses of technologies share a unique relationship to musical taste. Musical taste remains a relevant process of distinction, but modes of exchange prove to be an emerging property. They, however, do not create new symbolic boundaries; rather, they are important in reinforcing those that exist.
This project explores consumer evaluations on Yelp.com as "commodity activism" – the politicization of market activities for the purposes of social change and/or cultural resistance. A textual analysis of consumer evaluations (n = 1972) and interviews (n = 18) reveal that commodity activism on Yelp most commonly appears as a positive bias toward localism. Consumers discursively construct an aesthetic of authenticity around localism that functions in accordance with the logic of corporate branding; in turn, "brand local" is appropriated by reviewers as part of their own authentic "self-brand" grounded in the civic duty to one’s community. The implications of this logic are critiqued against commodity activism’s commitment to individual, personalized forms of self-empowerment over identification with larger collective and community struggles. In this sense, Yelp is favorable to neoliberal discourses of consumer capitalism, where consumption serves as a stand-in for citizenship and localism’s political potential reconfigured in market terms.
This article examines and critiques the logic and practices of branding that inform contemporary American political campaigns within the context of ethical surplus, sign value versus use value, emotion and reason, and the tension of authenticity and cynicism. The original research is based upon 38 one-on-one, in-depth interviews with political consultants, including media strategists, communication directors, and advertising producers who are involved in the encoding and cultural production of political discourse. The qualitative findings illuminate a professional ideology among these elite practitioners that obfuscates the pursuit of power by strategizing texts that involve emotional evocation rather than rational deliberation and embed candidates within signifiers of and proxies for authenticity. These efforts are intended to strike a disinterested, non-instrumental pose on behalf of the "branded candidates" they represent.
This article adopts the theory of social practices as a critical lens for understanding computer game consumption as multiple ‘nexuses of doings and sayings’, which represent the elements of and are situated within the broader context of consumer culture. Specifically, we explore an emerging phenomenon of an organised and competitive approach to computer gaming, referred to as ‘electronic sports’ or ‘eSports’, by offering a novel conceptualisation of eSports as an assemblage of consumption practices. In our endeavour, we illustrate that eSports practices are performed by consumers through multiple interconnected nexuses of unique understandings, tools, competencies and skills, whereby these nexuses transcend the elements of digital play to include the watching and governing of eSports. Accordingly, eSports consumers take on multiple roles beyond being considered merely as ‘players’, engaging with this phenomenon using different nexuses of practical activities. Our findings suggest that, in order to gain a more comprehensive perspective of what consumers actually do with computer games, we should explore gaming consumption in relation to different social practices that co-constitute multifaceted consumer engagement within this genre.
This article explores the ways in which developments associated with the ‘creative revolution’ in New York advertising in the 1950s and 1960s were imported into the United Kingdom, helping to reshape advertising practices in London. In locating the development of UK advertising within this history of commercial exchange, this article explores the modes of transmission and the material conduits through which innovations in advertising practice crossed the Atlantic. It also focuses on the role played by a distinctive 1960s formation of practitioners who used an organisation called the Design and Art Directors Association to champion the new idioms of US advertising. Their rise to influence helped to legitimate a new set of criteria for evaluating advertising which placed ‘creativity’ above ‘research’ and the ‘science of selling’ as the principal measure of good advertising. In exploring the exporting of the ‘new advertising’ to the United Kingdom, this article develops a particular understanding of how Anglo-American advertising relations worked to shape UK advertising practices. This foregrounds the way the US ‘creative revolution’, like other forms of US advertising, was adapted, hybridised and indigenised in its importing to Britain. This article shows how the ‘new advertising’ pioneered in New York was reworked and combined with more local cultural influences. Out of this emerged distinctive styles of British advertising in the 1960s and 1970s.
This article contributes to a burgeoning body of writing focused on children and consumption with reference to critical writing around alcohol, drinking and drunkenness. Drawing on empirical research undertaken in the United Kingdom with families with at least one child aged 5–12 years, we show that despidte being uninterested in drinking themselves, children have a sophisticated understanding of alcohol and its effects. In doing so, we contribute to recent theoretical and empirical work on social reproduction, adult–children interaction, materialities and intergenerational transmission of consumption cultures that are bound up with social rather than individualised notions of consumption. By adding non-representational theories relating to emotions, embodiment and affect to such an agenda, we also point to new fruitful avenues for research on children, childhood and consumer culture.
Computer-generated images have become the common means for architects and developers to visualise and market future urban developments. This article examines within the context of the experience economy how these digital images aim to evoke and manipulate specific place atmospheres to emphasise the experiential qualities of new buildings and urban environments. In particular, we argue that computer-generated images are far from ‘just’ glossy representations but are a new form of visualising the urban that captures and markets particular embodied sensations. Drawing on a 2-year qualitative study of architects’ practices that worked on the Msheireb project, a large-scale redevelopment project in Doha (Qatar), we examine how digital visualisation technology enables the virtual engineering of sensory experiences using a wide range of graphic effects. We show how these computer-generated images are laboriously materialised in order to depict and present specific sensory, embodied regimes and affective experiences to appeal to clients and consumers. Such development has two key implications. First, we demonstrate the importance of digital technologies in framing the ‘expressive infrastructure’ of the experience economy. Second, we argue that although the Msheireb computer-generated images open up a field of negotiation between producers and the Qatari client, and work quite hard at being culturally specific, they ultimately draw ‘on a Westnocentric literary and sensory palette’ that highlights the continuing influence of colonial sensibilities in supposedly postcolonial urban processes.
Through ethnography and interviews, this article examines the social media–based transnational reselling of Western luxury by Chinese women through the lens of gendered transnational prosumption. Linking prosumption to debates on the feminization of labor, it analyzes the paradoxical implications that neoliberal global capitalism's demand for more agentive and participatory prosuming female subjects have for international feminist politics. Disrupting the boundaries between the commercial or public and personal, virtual and physical, and work and consumption, transnational mobile middle-class Chinese women have "reinvented" prosumption as a cultural, technological, and economic solution to the contradictions that inhere in competing demands of different gender regimes. In their hands, prosumption becomes a gendered response to the tensions inherent to China's Post-Socialist modernity, allowing some women more choices, autonomy, flexibility, and mobility through the strategic performance of gendered identities and networks. But such freedom is often already contained by the biopolitical governmentality of both advanced capitalism and the patriarchal Chinese state, which divide women based on class, race, and nationality; render employment precarious and atomized; encourage consumer global citizenship; and foster a self-promotional, commoditized, and "always-on" interactive subjectivity. As such, this article seeks to complicate the current discussion of prosumption by highlighting the structuring imperatives of gender, class, race, and nation.
This article explores cooperation between a commercial supermarket chain and an environmental non-governmental organization linking it to consumer perception of the "The Super Animals" collectable cards promotion initiative. The case study focuses on one particular joint project involving Animal Cards that was initiated by the supermarket Albert Heijn and the World Wide Fund for Nature in The Netherlands. Based on this case, environmental non-governmental organizations’ strategic choices in the context of contesting discourses of sustainability and consumption, as well as implications for environmental education, are addressed. This article combines three strands of the literature – on sustainable consumption, on strategic cooperation between commercial companies and environmental non-governmental organizations and on environmental education. It is argued that the Animal Cards initiative presents an ambiguous case by both attempting to enhance environmental awareness and promoting consumption, opening up questions about the value of such cooperative ventures to the objectives of environmental education. It is concluded that cross-sector partnerships have the potential to lead to improvements in corporate social responsibility and environmental awareness among consumers but simultaneously pose the danger of undermining the critical stance toward consumption.
This article examines the evolution of tequila’s reputation – from lowbrow to high class – in Mexico and the United States. Analyzing the content of novels, magazines, newspapers, ads, and song lyrics, it argues that the current cachet associated with tequila was influenced by a range of historical, political, and economic circumstances within and between Mexico and the United States. Specifically, transformations took place in three key phases including tequila’s: (1) increasing ties to national identity in Mexico; (2) changing perception – moving from feared to fun – in the United States; and (3) gaining of state-backed support and legislative protection. In explaining the shifting patterns of prestige, the roles of transnational circuits of consumption and production merit closer analysis in understanding the relations that shape cultural fields.
In policy and research, there is increasing recognition that the scale of transitions necessary for a low carbon society will require significant reductions in energy demand. Concurrently, advancing knowledge about energy practices has been highlighted as important in developing a basis for the delivery of less energy intensive configurations. In this article, we examine interview (participant n = 53) and visual (photographic) data collected across two UK communities to develop understanding of energy consumption as part of everyday life. We conduct our analysis through a practice theoretical lens, in particular drawing on Bourdieu’s concepts, to develop social theoretically informed interpretations of energy demand and its constitution through daily practice. We conclude reflecting on the implications of our analysis for conceptualising societal change and the role of policy in reducing energy demand.
This essay builds on and expands the domain of the burgeoning literature on the human prosumer and the process of prosumption. Just as the prosumer and prosumption are finally getting the attention they have always deserved, a dramatic technological change – the rise of smart prosuming machines – is taking place that is reducing the importance of the human prosumer. While the impact of these machines on producers (here conceived of as prosumers-as-producers) has long been obvious, what has changed the most is the explosion, and the growing impact, of these machines on consumers (or prosumers-as-consumers). A number of examples are offered of smart prosuming machines for humans. The latter are often unaware of the prosumption being done by smart machines, especially on the Internet. While smart prosuming machines offer many advantages, the danger lies in the replacement of human by non-human technologies and the control exercised by them. This is especially the case on the Internet of Things where many smart prosuming machines function, interrelate, and operate as autonomous, self-organizing devices.
This article draws on ethnographic fieldwork at the Shanghai World Expo in 2010. It examines the socio-material life of three brands of refreshments featured at the 2010 World Expo: the local Chinese water purification company Litree, the Inner-Mongolian dairy manufacturer Yili and the soft-drink multinational Coca-Cola. Whereas international events nowadays play a key role in the intensification of the circulation of information, this article pays attention rather to the carnal dimension of the Expo and to the importance of the sensuous experience of the event in the promotion of these brands. It shows that close attention to the materiality of branding practices and the varieties of a brand’s existence can unveil a universe of constant tensions, uncertainties and immanent adjustments, even in the pacified and sanitized ecology of the World Expo.
In this article, we contrast the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of cultural consumption. We use data from an audience survey in two art museums (n = 1448) and contrast manifested preferences towards artefacts of various artists – that is, (dis)liking Duchamp, Rubens, Kandinsky, Pollock and Van Gogh – with how people appropriate works of art. These ways of preferring are measured using items reflecting abstract evaluation criteria people use to assess/evaluate works of art and are considered proxies for aesthetic dispositions. Our results indicate that taste profiles – that is, certain combinations of (dis)liking different artists – are not very strongly related to socio-demographic characteristics and to social status position. However, among individuals having the same preferences, we find differences in ways of preferring. These differences are associated with socio-demographics and also with social inequality. This suggests that in the context of art museums, distinction is not – or only slightly – embedded in manifested preferences, but more in dispositions, that is, in ways of preferring. These findings corroborate theoretical challenges of the premise that dispositions are socialized into individuals and that this explains the social patterning of cultural practices and preferences.
This article analyzes the website slaveryfootprint.org, which purports to measure consumers’ reliance on slave labor in the Global South by analyzing the users’ consumption habits. The site offers neoliberal consumer solutions to "solve" the problem of what it terms modern-day slavery. I argue that the characterization of slavery on slaveryfootprint.org (and the process of de-fetishizing this labor) attempts to shore up a distinction between "free" and forced labor, but unwittingly illuminates the ambiguity of this divide. By understanding slavery as embedded in capitalism, I suggest that we can challenge slaveryfootprint.org’s distinction between "free" labor and slavery, and in the process, the notion of "ethical" consumption.
How do mancaves, male spaces in or around the house, contribute to construction of masculinity? Our research challenges the perspective that male spaces emerge in opposition to the feminine conception of home. Findings from interviews with American suburban men reveal that male spaces represent therapeutic venues that help men in alleviating identity pressures created by work as well as domestic life and aid revitalization of men’s identities as fathers and husbands. Circumscribed by egalitarian ideology and the family ideal, male spaces also foster paternal and fraternal bonds instrumental for creating masculinity at home.
China is quickly becoming one of the most ageing populations in Asia. Ageing and the associated issue of health care are becoming two key concerns for the government, the market, individual senior citizens and medical and health professionals alike. However, although we have some knowledge about what issues and problems exist in the domain of health and ageing, we know little about how these issues and problems inform individuals’ consumption practices and ethical positions of how they should live their lives. This article explores a range of problematic and uncertain situations facing the ageing population in urban China. Drawing on in-depth interviews with more than 20 senior citizens in a Chinese city, the article aims to understand the process by which new ethical ageing subjects come to be formed as individuals negotiate their positions vis-à-vis consumer advice from medical and health professionals, the government and the market. The article starts by identifying the most powerful forces shaping the health-keeping discourses and consumption practices adopted by senior citizens. It then provides an account of how ordinary retired citizens engage in health-keeping practices on a daily basis. Finally, the article outlines the host of feelings that motivate China’s senior citizens’ active participation in the regimes of healthy living, as well as a range of everyday ethical positions that emerge from their consumption practices. The article argues that as China has been transformed from a socialist state into a neoliberal regime, questions of how neoliberalism works as both a set of techniques of governing and a set of socio-economic policies in the Chinese context must be answered. In the same way that the biopower is a pertinent question to ask of any modern society, how a neoliberal governmentality and its biopolitics work in the Chinese context is both relevant and timely.
This article explores what Christmas entails to people with limited consumer options and how they cope in their difficult life situations. Previous research suggests that in the contemporary consumer society in which people construct and maintain their identities by participating in consumer culture, those who lack the means to consume face social exclusion. Secondary consumption is a way for poor consumers to come closer to prevailing consumption standards. Drawing from an ethnographic study of Christmas celebrations in four faith-based food assistance organizations within one Finnish city, this study shows that for secondary consumers, Christmas simultaneously entails both more resources and a more intense sense of social exclusion. Christmas highlights the paradoxical dual position of secondary consumers where they are both excluded from and dependent on the prevailing practices of consumer culture. To cope with their situation, food receivers use different strategies: they may refuse to celebrate, distance themselves from their dependence on charity or reframe their situation by considering the food donations as gifts from God.
Ethical consumption has become a popular topic in the sociology of consumption in recent years. However, extant research on explicit ‘ethical consumption’ and on implicit moralities of consumption has scarcely been linked. In the research on ethical consumption, tensions between an inner self and self-presentation to others have been reported. By examining the case of food consumption, the study asks how the idea of ‘taking responsibility’ as a consumer is negotiated by persons who do not identify strongly with ethical consumption. Theoretically, the article starts from two approaches that have located morality either as internal to the person or as external in communication. It is contended that this opposition is not merely a theoretical one, but empirically present in the accounts of the food consumers studied: While consumers have to present their moral motivation as authentic, they also have to communicate their actions as morally valid according to socially established ‘vocabularies of motive’. On the basis of a study of 25 in-depth interviews with consumers from a mid-sized German town, it is shown that the idea that consumers should ‘take responsibility’ for distant others is just one of several abstract constructions of ‘good’ consumption, and that not living up to this idea may be justified with references to personal taste and practical circumstances. It is argued that via references to authenticity, inner morality is part of the vocabulary of motive, and that these vocabularies frame the presentation of moral motivation as internal.
Studies of political consumerism and of political consumers tend to ask general questions about motivations and tendencies among specific segments of society and investigate the likelihood of the political attitudes of specific social identities to affect consumer choices. In contrast, we examine how political consumerism is influenced by both individual characteristics and the communities in which these individuals live. In addition, we explore whether specific issues of political consumerism – environmental concerns, social justice, and religion – exist independently of general political consumerism. Finally, we attempt to determine the relationship between these different focuses of political consumerism. Based on a survey conducted in August 2010 in Israel of a random sample of 603 adult Jewish Israelis, we delineate the general trends of political consumerism. We then present a regression model to further explore the different paths of political consumerism. This article concludes with a model developed using structural equation modeling in which the different factors and paths are brought together in order to understand the relationship between the three paths of political consumerism.
This article proposes some theoretical and methodological advancements in the study of critical consumption within the framework of the theory of practices. It does so by applying an innovative analytic technique based on network analysis: using data from a survey of a representative sample of the Italian population, we analyze the structure of connections between variables at different levels of correlations, and then we focus on some interesting local neighborhoods that suggest elements for interpretative frameworks. The aim of this article is to explore whether it is possible to consider critical consumption as a practice, and if so what are the elements that characterize it as an entity. We also aim to observe whether these elements are connected to other (not necessarily sustainable) practices. Results do not show robust and coherent connections of elements that allow speaking of critical consumption as a practice, but they identify interesting anchor points where ethnographic approaches can be directed. These crossroads, where bundles of elements encounter, suggest the existence of loose knits of activities where competences and meanings of different practices encounter and contaminate.
In international energy policy, programmes and consumer research, a dominant ideal consumer is emerging. This consumer is typically a human adult who has the agency to make autonomous, functional and rational decisions about his or her household’s energy consumption. This article seeks to disrupt this dominant anthropocentric conceptualisation of the consumer and provide new ways of knowing and potentially intervening in the lives of energy consumers. Drawing on qualitative research conducted with householders living in Sydney, Australia, and theories of practice, materiality and agency from sociology and science and technology studies, we seek to understand consumers as human and nonhuman actants operating in distributed assemblages of practice. We explore the implications of conceptualising non-traditional consumers of energy, such as babies, pets, pests and pool pumps, as performers of or materials in practices that consume energy. Our analysis provides new ways of potentially intervening in patterns of energy consumption. We argue that policy makers need to refocus their attention on finding routes into assemblages of practice to achieve change. We conclude by calling for further exploration and recognition of the myriad curious consumers found in households.
Everyday consumption norms are abundantly evident in empirical studies, yet focussed theoretical discussion is lacking. This article fills this gap by proposing three theoretical points, developed through the case study of changing personal consumption norms and public moralizing in pre-war and socialist Hungary. It suggests first that consumption norms draw on cosmologies that involve pragmatic beliefs alongside strong evaluations which refer to ethical visions of how to live and who to be. Second, it shows that many of these ethical visions are embedded in practices as practical ethics rather than being articulated in abstract terms. Finally, it argues that personal consumption norms are simultaneously subject to individual appropriation and constrained by collective discursive and practical conventions. Thus, norms serve as a terrain through which shared ethical visions and pragmatic beliefs are negotiated and modified.
The relevance of consumer goods and consumer behaviour for the constitution and confirmation of a self-concept is widely acknowledged in consumer studies. However, in light of discussions in sociological theory, there is a question whether this is a self-concept planed individually and connected to feelings of anxiety, as analysts of the contemporary society like Baumann, Beck and Giddens would have it, or whether consumption in the end is still bound to social identities grounded in belonging to social categories or socio-economic position. The question is empirically tested in this essay using the example of wine consumption and the relevance of such consumption for constructing a self-concept. The empirical analysis indicates first, that only a small group of consumers with high involvement in wine consumption considers wine relevant for their identity, and second, that both the construction of a wine-related consumer identity, as well as the feelings of insecurity and embarrassment associated with it are not directly influenced by socio-structural factors. Instead, in the case of wine consumption, these are transmitted through lifestyles and social networks.
This article argues that taking a practice theoretical approach is useful for obtaining a nuanced understanding of transnationally mobile persons’ development of place affiliation through their adoption or rejection of locally available consumption practices. In this way, we engage in the ongoing discussion about practice theory and in how to understand the co-constellation of things, bodies and mental activities in relation to consumption. Focusing on newcomers to a particular geographic setting highlights possibilities and constraints for practice retention and adaptation, as well as reflection upon such choices. Additionally, we argue that the employed data collection techniques, involving a combination of volunteer-employed photography with participants’ comments on their own photos and information about their socio-demographic profile, constitute a particularly apt approach for shedding light on evolving consumption practices in the face of geographic mobility, and how such practices may lead to the development of place affiliation.
In his celebrated 1951 work, Social Choice and Individual Values, economist Kenneth Arrow asked how the values of individuals might be aggregated into a social choice. Today, we live in a world in which choice is celebrated as a virtually undiluted good. Indeed, in the agrifood sector in much of the world, there is considerable evidence that the range of choices has increased markedly in the last 30 years. In much of the world today, we can choose from a vast array of items in the local supermarket, as well as from a range of restaurants that differ on price, quality, and ethnic or regional specialties. Consumer choice is also seen as a means of promoting fair trade, animal welfare, geographically specific food and agricultural products such as wines and cheeses, and fair labor practices, as well as protecting the environment and biodiversity, among other things. In short, choice is seen as both "revealing preferences" of consumers as well as their ethical stances with respect to various issues facing the world today. But all this assumes that choices are individual. It not only accepts the methodological individualism common to mainstream economics and psychology as a research strategy, but assumes that it provides an adequate means of understanding and organizing the world. However, if we reject that individualism as both research strategy and social project, and grant that humans are social beings, then appropriate food choices are learned through a complex process of interaction. One might say that the Arrow points the other way: individual choices are and must be based on socially held, shared values. Governing this process requires rethinking and revisioning the future of agriculture and food.
Based on fieldwork involving unobtrusive observations and interview data collected from young male prisoners participating in a cognitive-therapy program, this article explores how consumerism interpolates the treatment setting and the cultural views of racially marginalized adolescents. While recent literature intimates that such men will possess idiosyncratic cultural "repertoires" or "worldviews," we find that many young prisoners are strongly invested in consumerism. This is evident in the central role that money, commodities, and lifestyles play in their lives. We also find that correctional officers are just as wedded to consumerism, yet castigate the young men for how they make sense of what it means to live in a consumerist world. In our view, this embodies a peculiar form of social injustice that we call "consumerist entrapment": Young men are strongly encouraged to adopt cultural orientations and consumerist behaviors for which they are subsequently penalized.
In a modern and respectable middle-class suburb outside Kuala Lumpur, the overtness of cars evokes intense speculation about the nature of the make-up of covert middle-class homes and the formation of Malay Muslim identities more generally. I argue that the more ‘Islamic’ cultures of consumption assert themselves in modern Malaysia, the more the growing Malay Muslim middle class is split between desiring cars as positional commodities, on the one hand, and claims for piety through consumption, on the other. An important question is how Malay Muslim middle-class identity is practised through divergent forms of car consumption. Discussing ethnographic material from fieldwork among Malay middle-class families, I show how car consumption generates not only distinctions, practices and moral symbolic boundaries but also ideas about Islam, nation and excess.
Drawing from phenomenological interviews with 24 adult videogamers, we explore videogame consumption as a source of individualised, episodic progress. We first consider the relationship between play, progress, technology and the market. We then document adults' accounts of progress through the acquisition of new consoles and software, in the accumulation of in-game resources, and in creative achievements within videogames. Alongside an understanding of technological improvements as representing both technological and personal progress, we see how individuals may also turn to videogames in search of quick and easy episodes of achievement; here, progress is not some grand plan, but a series of small events helpfully structured by the latest game releases. Thus, in a society which aspires to a life where things ‘get better’ and time is usefully spent, adults who fail to actualise progress elsewhere may use videogames and related hardware to perform the idea of achievement as individualised episodes of play. In integrating the accepted cultural idea of progress, perceptions of adult play as ‘frivolous’ can be overcome and such practices may be normalised as a legitimate adult activity. However, play emerges from its frivolousness as legitimate only in compensating for working practices that remain alienated through technology-driven productivity, and through the latest technological commodities. The enjoyable nature of games as a leisure pursuit can become overshadowed by an obligation to achieve at the same time as distancing players from areas of their lives where progress is not experienced.
This article deals with the productive activities carried out by consumers, supervised by the suppliers for their profit, in the market economy. There is abundant managerial literature on this topic. A corpus of marketing texts shows that putting consumers to work is a specific aim of those responsible for organizing work in companies. Sociological studies followed, but in unsystematic and sectorized ways. This article analyses consumer activity itself, using the concepts and tools of the sociology of work. The four aspects of consumer activity are described: the way it is prescribed and organized, the actual work done, the output, and the meaning it has for those who carry it out. With this theoretical frame and an empirical survey, I identify three ways in which the consumer is put to work: in addition to the forms of work that have already been clearly identified, that is, self-service and collaborative coproduction, which I discuss here, I consider "organizational work."
This article examines why American consumption has boomed over the past three decades, even as wages have stagnated and debt has risen. Although many analysts characterize rising spending as a product of a "culture of consumerism," these analyses suggest that much of this spending growth is on well-being-essential products, whose prices have been rising quickly. Nonessential consumption growth is primarily occurring at the top of the US income pyramid, while the strains of paying for basic essentials may push lower income households into greater debt. America's purported inability to restrain consumption spending may be attributable to policy-induced structural factors that make basic necessities expensive, and less a product of modern marketing, media, or some other cultural phenomenon.
This paper argues that women’s underwear functions as a source for (re)constructing female identity, and that women’s consumption of underwear is an embodied experience through which they ‘learn’ to choose the ‘right’ underwear for the right occasion. This experience is understood here through the use of Pierre Bourdieu’s notions of habitus, taste and (embodied) cultural capital, thus expanding the limited literature on underwear and its significance in terms of identity and consumption. Through a series of focus groups and interviews, I argue that women express their taste in underwear depending on their habitus-influenced assumptions about its role and function, and that underwear works as their embodied cultural capital to support elements of female identity. The themes of my analysis include the degree to which my participants exhibit their sense of taste about the underwear they buy, and how they distinguish between the underwear that they need to wear in particular fields; the transmission of their mothers’ cultural capital and taste when it comes to their choices in underwear; and the relationship between underwear and outerwear, and how they use the former to support their dress within specific fields or contexts they move in and out of in their daily lives.
This study addresses the enduring problem of the mismatch between firms’ offerings and consumers’ desires. It combines the general framework of modernity theory with the concept of regimes and uses the food area as the empirical context. Our cultural analytical study of consumers’ and firms’ articulation of values of food and meal demonstrates that firms are largely entrenched in the modern era, characterized by rationality, resource efficiency, and progress as means to improve human lives by providing more and better products. The consumers, on the other hand, have shifted to the late modern era, identified by risk aversion, local production, naturalism, hedonism, and a focus on identity and everyday life. The study concludes that the dichotomy in values and the structural constraints inherent within the contemporary food system explain much of the mismatch between firms and consumers in the Swedish food market. Another reason is that firms have difficulties to respond to new consumer demands. Our results are summarized in a conceptual model of differences in values between firms and consumers. They provide guidelines on how firms can rethink the present structure and better understand consumers.
The veneration of brands as part of "brand communities" reflects the expansion of consumerism in advanced capitalism. But what is it about brand communities that set them apart from other community types? It is argued that brand communities differ from other types of communities in one important respect – the community is a secondary, rather than primary, effect of brand community association. In other words, the brand as symbol precedes the emergence of the brand community, rather than the symbol being employed (in a totemic fashion) to represent a pre-existing community as in other types of community. This realization opens the way for understanding the specific dynamics that characterize brand communities, particularly in their relationship with the corporate entities that legally own brands and market the branded products, and also with wider social trends where the brand comes to possess an iconic, mythic significance. It will be argued that, contrary to the recent trend in the brand community literature to view all manner of brand-oriented group activities as examples of brand communities, there are specific features that set brand communities apart from other types of community configurations. As a consequence, some of the examples put forward by analysts as brand communities might have brand community aspects, but are in fact primarily other types of community formations, such as subcultures and hobby groups. It is suggested that brand communities be viewed as a part of a continuum, with some groups according with the ideal type of brand community more than others. This is not merely important for classification purposes, but is important analytically, as it is contended that brand communities have a unique set of dynamics that sets them aside from other types of community formations.
The emergence of grassroots social movements variously preoccupied with a range of external threats, such as diminishing supplies of fossil energy or climate change, has led to increased interest in the production of local food. Drawing upon the notion of cognitive praxis, this article utilises transition as a trajectory guided by an overarching cosmology that brings together a broad social movement seeking a more resilient future. This ‘grand narrative’ is reinforced by ‘transition movement intellectuals’ who serve to shape an agenda of local preparedness in the face of uncertainty, rather than structural analysis of the global system. In this context, growing and producing food offers important multi-functional synergies by reconnecting people to place and its ecological endowments and serves to provide a vital element in civic mobilisation. Yet, local food could also become a means to build international solidarity in defence of food sovereignty and establish a global coalition opposed to the corporate agri-food agenda of biotechnologies, land grabbing and nutritional impoverishment.
Bourdieu’s concept of habitus describes a set of tastes and dispositions operating according to a class homology – for example, a working-class preference for utility, or a bourgeois orientation toward luxury. In the United States, Holt found that high cultural capital consumers were characterized by their cosmopolitanism, idealism, connoisseurship, and affinity for the exotic and authentic. In this article, we use Holt’s analysis as a comparative case, finding an altered high cultural capital habitus incorporating environmental awareness and sustainability principles, in a configuration that has been called ethical or "conscious consumption." Using both quantitative survey data of self-described conscious consumers as well as four qualitative case studies, we argue that ethical consumers are overwhelmingly high cultural capital consumers, and that high cultural capital consumption strategies have shifted since Holt’s study in the mid-1990s. We show that on a number of dimensions – cosmopolitanism, idealism, and relation to manual labor – a new high cultural capital consumer repertoire privileges the local, material, and manual, while maintaining a strategy of distinction. While the critical literature on conscious consumers has suggested that such practices reflect neo-liberal tendencies that individualize environmental responsibility, our findings suggest that such practices are hardly individual. Rather, they are collective strategies of consumption – what we have termed an emerging high cultural capital "eco-habitus."
This article offers a sociological understanding of the role of catalogue shopping in women’s everyday lives. The article draws on qualitative data generated from interviews with women working at the returns department of the Kays catalogue warehouse in Worcester. During the time of writing, Shop Direct, owners of Kays closed down the historic warehouse in Worcester, effectively bringing over 200 years of Worcester’s association with Kays and the catalogue industry to an end, and leading to 500 job losses, including those of the women taking part in the research. Once the largest private employer in Worcester, Kays occupies an important role in local cultural and social identities, and in this article, I will argue that a sociological account of catalogue shopping is apt and timely given such significant social changes, the recent economic downturn and social problems that have long been associated with this form of consumption. In addition, the article will show that to date, much research into catalogue shopping has tended to rest on economic historical accounts of the ‘mail order’ industry. In contrast, this article argues that catalogue shopping occupies not only a significant place in the popular cultural imagination surrounding the shopping habits of the working classes (and especially working-class women) but has also played a crucial role in women’s management of the home, caring for the family and safeguarding an often limited financial budget. The article will consider the important role that catalogues have played in offering credit to working-class women who may have previously struggled to get this. Finally, it adds to recent attempts to put women’s domestic consumption patterns firmly on the academic agenda.
This article focuses on political consumerism understood as a social movement in which a network of individual and collective actors criticize and try to differentiate themselves from traditional consumerism by politicizing the act of buying in order to search and promote other types of consumption. In this respect, they adopt a series of actions that have a collective goal but that can be either individual or collective (boycott, buycott). This article is based on a comparison of four cases in France and in the United Kingdom: two convivia of Slow Food and two more radical groups – de-growth promoters and people living in an eco-village. The angle used in this research is utopia understood both as a discourse and a set of practices. The utopian discourse includes, first, a rejection of the existing society, and, second, if not a clear conception of what another world might look like, at least the idea that another society is possible and desirable. The utopian practices need to be an attempt to create here and now at least some of the features of this utopian discourse in the hope of a spread in the rest of society. Viewing political consumerism through the lenses of utopia can help understand how actors view consumption and how they relate their acts of (non-)consuming to ideals and dreams of a better world. Utopia helps show that the particular choices of consumption, of lifestyle or the choices collectively made, are only really understandable if one looks at the logics behind them and their articulation to the ideals and hopes actors have. It can also help us see how actors articulate the individual and collective level of action since it shows that for the actors, their everyday choices of living are also done in order to achieve some necessary changes within society.
Ethical consumption can take different forms, some more contentious like boycotts or public campaigns, some aiming at the establishment or promotion of alternative consumption practices (buycotts). This study looks at how these tactics are articulated by analyzing the development of an "ethical shopping map," an action situated in the latter category of "supportive" actions. In 2007, a Swiss nongovernmental organization published this map as part of its ongoing campaign fighting for the respect of social standards in the global garment industry. A project pursued by a regional group of volunteers of the organization, the map listed stores where ethical clothes can be purchased in a big Swiss city. This article consists of an ethnographic analysis of the process of elaboration of the map and discusses its inclusion into the tactical repertoire of the anti-sweatshop campaign. Based on participant observation and interviews with volunteers and campaign staff, it examines what drives the activists’ concern with alternative forms of consumption. It looks at the rationales and meanings the volunteers put behind the map and the different uses of the map that are suggested, and examines the ultimate "failure" of making it a lasting part of the campaign’s tactical action repertoire. Doing so, the article reveals the inherent tension of "ethical consumption," between supportive action forms based on buycotts and denunciatory actions of public shaming of firms whose practices are criticized.
This article seeks to contribute to the discourse on the politicization of voluntary simplifiers’ consumption patterns. Some scholars argue that voluntary simplifiers’ consumption practices are individualistic and escapist in nature, and therefore cannot be defined as political, and that they are likely to become such only if they organize for collective action. Conversely, we argue that voluntary simplifiers’ lifestyle is an individual political choice that should be analyzed using theories of political consumption. This article, based on interviews with voluntary simplifiers in Israel, identifies four characteristics of voluntary simplifiers that attest to their political nature: (1) multidimensional political discourse, (2) embracement of a holistic and uncompromising lifestyle of simplicity, (3) lifestyle changes as ongoing political process, and (4) the desire to exert influence. We therefore argue that voluntary simplifiers are not only political, but they represent a clear-cut instance of noninstitutionalized political activity realized through individual practices in the private realm.
In the current economic crisis, social movements are simultaneously facing two types of challenges: first, they are confronting institutions which are less able (or willing) to mediate new demands for social justice and equity emerging from various sectors of society, and second, given the highly individualised structure of contemporary society, they are also experiencing difficulties in building bonds of solidarity and cooperation among people, bonds which are a fundamental resource for collective action. It is in this context that protests waves, which may be very relevant, are in fact often short-lived, and it is in this context that we detect the rise and consolidation of new mutualistic and cooperative experiences within which (similarly to the past) new ties and frames for collective action are created. This article discusses and analyses social movement organisations which focus on both the intensification of economic problems and the difficulties of rebuilding social bonds and solidarity within society, emphasising solidarity and the use of ‘alternative’ forms of consumption as means to re-embed the economic system within social relations, starting from the local level. While discussing what is new and/or what has been renewed in new Sustainable Community Movement Organisations, the article will develop an analytical framework which will combine social movements and political consumerism theories by focusing on two basic dimensions: consumer culture and identity and organisational resources and repertoire of action.
The white wedding remains the most popular marriage ritual in the United States despite significant social change since its inception. Current research on this phenomenon focuses primarily on the influence of mass media, including advertising that socializes women and girls. I argue that while important, mass media alone cannot explain why many women want to have a white wedding. Drawing from data gathered primarily with survey research and free association narrative interviews, this article examines the white wedding desires of women who experience them as common sense. I use Ludwig’s concept of heteronormative hegemony to provide a more thorough account of both gendered subject formation and white wedding desire. In this analysis, women’s social consumption of mass media, embodiment of gendered habitus as taste and ritualized conversations with other women are particularly salient.
Despite the presumed national economic benefits that result from high levels of discretionary spending, past studies suggest that material consumption decreases individual economic and subjective well-being. However, most research on the development of materialistic values has examined how persuasive materialistic messages cause materialism. We recruited 2702 participants to test our prediction that living in wealthy neighborhoods should increase material desires and maladaptive consumption in much the same way it decreases happiness. Interestingly, our regression models revealed that individual socioeconomic status (SES) and neighborhood SES have unique, and opposite, predictive patterns of material consumption. Specifically, after controlling for age, gender, and population size, greater neighborhood SES predicted greater desires for material consumption, more impulsive buying, and fewer savings behaviors while individual SES showed the reverse pattern. Our path model suggests that greater neighborhood SES leads to increased material desires, which then predicts more frequent impulsive buying, and fewer savings behaviors. We discuss why neighborhood SES might change values and consumer behaviors.
Historians and sociologists have long had a fascination with the idea of the postwar British ‘affluent society’. Yet, up until now, most work in this area has been centred upon developments within the private and commercial sectors of the British economy. What this article shows is that rising levels of affluence, and the subsequent emergence of mass consumerism, also had quite profound effects upon the British public sector during the 1950s and 1960s. Using the public housing sector as the case study through which to explore these changes, this article shows how the increased emphasis upon consumer spending and consumer choice in this period not only resulted in heightened levels of consumption within the domestic sphere, but also fundamentally altered the shape and meaning of the council estate home.
This study presents a novel conceptual illustration of the non-voluntary anti-consumption practices that evolve in poor circumstances. The study brings a complementary and contrasting perspective to current discussions on anti-consumption by clarifying the understanding of non-voluntary anti-consumption practices and market resistance. Three conceptual elements—hidden, repressed and innovative—are identified to characterize non-voluntary anti-consumption practices; these elements are different from those of voluntary anti-consumption, which are collective, active and/or self-expressive. Applying the social constructivist practice-based approach, the analysis shows how the three types of non-voluntary anti-consumption practices—engaging in simple life, mastering consumerism and exploiting systems—are intertwined with other social practices and how they enable the poor to hold agency.
Food consumption has become the subject of many prescriptions that aim to improve consumers’ health and protect the environment. This study examined recent changes in food practices that occurred in response to prescriptions. Based on practice theories, we assume that links that connect practices with prescriptions result from evolving social interactions. Consistent with the life-course perspective, we focus on distinctions between public prescriptions and standards that individuals consider relevant to their lives. We rely on quantitative data and the results of qualitative fieldwork conducted in France. Our results suggest that consumers may change food practices when they reach turning points in their lives. They may reconsider resources, skills and standards. Middle- and upper-class individuals are more likely to adopt standards consistent with public prescriptions. Possible explanations are that they trust expert knowledge sources, their social networks are less stable and smaller gaps exist between their standards and prescriptions.
This article analyses two related phenomena, the transformation of Turkish nationalism and the articulation of a modern Turkish national identity through global processes. To understand these, the paper critically examines the cultural politics of an advertising campaign for Benetton Condoms that came out in 2000. Relying on interviews conducted with the employees of an advertising agency and basing my conclusion on a textual analysis of the outcomes of this campaign, it is argued that during this critical period of Turkey’s rapid expansion to become a player in the global marketplace, such a campaign articulated global consumerism and Turkish nationalism. The result was the construction of a new Turkish identity; "global Turkishness". In the cultural imagination of advertisers, concepts such as race, sexuality and disease become constituent elements of this global national identity. These concepts also articulate a popular consumerist Turkishness through the Benetton advertising campaign.
The videos on YouTube come either from mass media or are created and uploaded by amateur individuals. This study focused on how amateur individuals explore their digital self and establish parasocial interaction with others via YouTube videos. Drawing upon in-depth interviews with 45 participants (11 females and 34 males), our data demonstrate that YouTube is a consumer narrative where multiple digital selves and parasocial relationships are made comprehensible. It also unfolds the complex process of forming one’s digital self and parasocial relationships on YouTube by undergoing three main phases: digital self-construction, digital-self presentation strategies, and parasocial relationship developments that are managed by digital-self images. The results suggest that YouTube is a set of cultural values in terms of symbolic meanings in everyday life that are essential for consumers to digitally self-construct, self-present, and parasocially interact with online viewers.
In recent years the adoption of ethical criteria when making consumer decisions has gained increasing popularity and has been studied as a way of moving towards a more sustainable consumption–production paradigm. Much research has focused on what motivates people to engage in ethical consumer behaviours considered as the expression of an ethical self. However, there is a limited understanding of the construction and communication of these ethical selves. By focusing on how members of Spanish "Responsible Consumption Cooperatives" construct and communicate their ethical identities, this study sheds light on the underlying social psychological processes of ethical consumer behaviour from a Social Identity Approach. Findings from the multi-method qualitative study reveal how consumers negotiate their perceptions of ethics and respective behaviours through the construction and identification of in-groups and out-groups and communicate their shared social identity through different consumption practices, such as the deliberate avoidance of brands/symbols that embody the values of the consumerist society.
Drawing upon a survey and 41 semi-structured interviews with television consumers, we examine the negative moral reactions that some people have to contemporary reality television. We explore the relationship between cultural preferences and moral condemnation. Television consumers who have a moral reaction to reality TV are more likely to be from a higher socio-economic position and are less likely to consume the genre. To more fully understand some viewers’ negative moral reactions to reality television, we examine the moral reasoning of television consumers. Moral reactions to reality TV can be classified as endogenous and exogenous. An endogenous focus is concerned with the immorality of consumption. An exogenous focus locates morality in cultural production. These moral positions are also socially patterned; television consumers with an exogenous locus of morality possess higher levels of cultural capital, greater education and are less likely to consume reality TV. Theoretically, we contend that cultural taste is being turned into moral condemnation. In other words, when cultural consumption is linked to moral position then a strong symbolic boundary can be formed that reinforces real-world boundaries amongst social groups. This condemnation serves to harden cultural, symbolic boundaries rooted in classed consumption practices.
In 2012, the Dr Martens footwear company announced profits of £22 million with a 230% rise in sales from 2011–2012. In the light of this achievement, this paper will investigate the ideologies behind recent marketing campaigns – ‘First and Forever’ (A/W 2011 and S/S 2012) and ‘Individual Style. United Spirit’ (A/W2012) – and will consider the specific branding strategies that have encouraged such consumer attention during this period.
A textual analytical approach to promotional materials, including website resources and product catalogue, will specifically identify the role that the brand’s heritage plays within the contemporary campaign. This paper will argue that youth subcultural appropriations of the brand during the 20th century are specifically channelled in the 21st century and provide an essential framework that positions the current identity of the brand in relation to its historical antecedents. It is argued that the Dr Martens’ company consciously promotes the ‘cultural biography’ of its product and subsequently utilises subcultural tropes to attract the contemporary consumer.
The democratization of leisure cruising via Carnival Cruise Lines, from an elite option for the wealthy to an increasingly popular mass-market vacation for all, demonstrates the desire for an aesthetic of pleasure and accessibility that meshes particularly well with late 20th-century myths of classlessness in the United States, and with constructs of American national identity that favor and uplift notions of non-pretentiousness, playfulness, and inclusiveness. Utilizing historical overview, the critical analysis of promotional literature and other company-generated materials, and participant observation, I argue that Carnival cruise ships embody an aesthetic of overflowing juxtaposition and freneticism that seeks to symbolically annihilate class differences and redistribute power by enacting neoliberal fantasies of freedom, access, and democracy as enacted in the marketplace. Carnival cruise ships can be seen as representing a desire for collectivity and community in the face of splintering marketplaces and increased segmentation.
This paper presents a study of the socio-technical ordering of time around wood-fuelled heating systems of detached houses. It analyses the sequences and rhythms that organize the work of domestic heating, its synchronization with other daily activities, and tempo as the subjective experience of time in these activities. The study is based on a large, pre-existing Finnish free-form diary collection. We suggest that domestic energy technologies become useable and useful through the gradual embedding that involves the temporal organization of everyday life. As a result, technologies that organize time are not only convenient in an invisible way but also act as taken-for-granted coordinates and rhythms of human pursuits in everyday life. In many countries, wood-fuelled heating systems remain a common renewable energy technology in detached houses and stand as one option to lower related carbon emissions. However, the broader use of wood is compromised by time and convenience.
In the contemporary, industrialized, urban world practices of domestic water usage typically transcend the physical boundaries of the home as indoor plumbing connects with municipal sewer lines and water mains.
These infrastructural connections sever the sites of individual water consumption from the sites of its collection, storage, purification, and distribution. But what happens when individual homeowners become self-sufficient for gathering, conserving, and recycling water? Drawing from ethnographic research conducted amidst off-grid homeowners this paper examines how practices of domestic water conservation and usage unfold when individuals become self-sufficient for water. We find that off-grid homeowners engage in what we call "onerous consumption"—a type of alternatively hedonistic consumption characterized by burdensome involvement in the gathering, conserving, channeling, utilization, and disposal of resources. We argue that "onerous consumption" results in a profound awareness of resource utilization and consequently leads to greater resource conservation. We reflect on the value of the concept of onerous consumption for research and theorizing on sustainable and ethical consumption.
Though advertising’s capacity to provoke fear and uncertainty has been the subject of much historical scholarship, we know little about how advertisers have tried to allay the fears surrounding products widely perceived to be risky in nature. This article explores such dynamics by describing how the US advertising industry operated as an emotional community to frame the fear of flight as a marketing problem to be resolved through carefully designed ad campaigns. Drawing on a broad array of primary sources, the article focuses on the period between the 1920s and the 1970s. During this era, infrastructure expansion and new aviation technologies continuously grew the airlines’ carrying capacity, creating an ongoing need to recruit new flyers at a time when many consumers harbored deep concerns about the safety of air travel. The essay concentrates on two particularly influential lines of thought that structured airline marketing efforts: first, that flying fears were feminine in nature; and second, that flight phobias were symptomatic of an underdeveloped psyche. Though the focus is on airline advertising, the study ultimately has broader implications for our understanding of commercial media’s role in the selling of risk and the shaping of emotion in consumer capitalism.
Prosumption, the interrelated process of production and consumption, is increasingly obvious everywhere, but especially on the internet where people "prosume," for example, Facebook pages, Wikipedia entries, and Amazon.com orders. But what is prosumption? Has it evolved out of recent behaviors? Or, is it new and revolutionary? Or, is it what we’ve always done? In fact, it is all three. Beyond dealing with these questions and re-conceptualizing much of what we do as prosumption rather than as either production or consumption, we reflect on the future of prosumption, as well as on the continuing utility of traditional concepts, paradigms, theories and methods that were created to deal with epochs, phenomena and processes seemingly focused on production or consumption.
In recent years, there has been growing interest in applying social practice theory to theorizing consumption, specifically in relation to transforming practices that have problematic environmental impacts. In this paper, we address the questions: how do changes in practices occur, and what are the levers for influencing change towards more sustainable consumption practices? We argue that a view of agency distributed across people, things and social contexts is fruitful. We also explore learning through membership in communities of practice, where people are involved in experiments with or exposure to new practices. We relate three case studies in the arena of food consumption practices then discuss the practicalities and pitfalls involved in translating social practice approaches into practicable recommendations for encouraging more sustainable forms of consumption.
This article examines the culture of YouTube in order to illustrate the way that value generated by YouTube prosumers becomes utilized by capital, while also indicating the dissolution of the boundaries between media platforms as YouTube evolves into a commercially driven medium. The development of Annoying Orange from "amateur" content to television series and cultural phenomenon exemplifies the processes, whereby everyday user-generated content on YouTube becomes fodder for corporate media.
We explore key changes in orientations toward encountering and experiencing the ‘other’ in new consumption venues as a result of the transformations in globalization and modern culture. Our research aims to provide insights into how ‘experiencing the other’ is increasingly sought in high-society bazaars by both upper and lower social classes, respectively representing the westernized and traditional social elements in Turkey, where the West meets the East. Findings unravel the means that enable people to construct new constellations of identities and experience the other in these consumption spaces. As a result, we revisit and extend different theoretical insights on identity construction and otherness by recognizing more recent cultural trends and sensibilities that guide and motivate people to seek multiplicity and to experience difference.
This paper works at the intersection of three bodies of writing: theories relating to fashion, identity and the city; debate relating to urban materialities, assemblages and context; and cultural interventions advancing the study of post-socialism. Drawing on empirical research undertaken in Bratislava, Slovakia, we unpack a blurring of public and private space expressed through clothing. In contrast to elsewhere in the city, in Petržalka, a high-rise housing estate from the socialist period, widely depicted as anonymous and hostile since 1989, residents are renowned for wearing ‘comfortable’ clothes in order to ‘feel at home’ in public space. We describe the relationship between fashion, identity and comfort as an everyday ‘political’ response to state socialism and later the emergence of consumer capitalism. We argue, however, that by considering materialities, assemblages and context that studies of fashion and consumer culture can offer more complex political, economic, social, cultural and spatial analysis. To that end, we show how personal and collective consumption bound up with comfort and city life can be understood with reference to changing temporal and spatial imaginaries and experiences of claiming a material ‘right to the city’.
Based on ‘wardrobe interviews’, this article studies how young Dutch men dress themselves. We argue that existing sociological studies of clothing have gone too far in emphasizing the symbolic aspects of clothing and have not paid sufficient attention to the role of routines and rules in daily dressing. Moreover, we find that young Dutch men dress rather inconspicuously, and are hardly interested in using clothes as a tool in ‘postmodern’ identity experiments. Insofar as clothing selection is a matter of reflexivity, it is primarily directed at conformity to meet social and situational requirements. Our respondents use clothing to construct coherent and authentic identities: their dress should express who they think they are. Convincing others of their unique identity is hardly desirable for these men. Finally, for most of them clothing is a negative act: they seek to avoid attracting attention through their dress. Our respondents are aware of the fact that their inconspicuous dress is similar to those of their companions, but this is a source of comfort rather than distress.
Although expectant mothers have long purchased items in preparation for their baby’s birth, the timing and type of purchases being made have changed in response to pregnant women routinely learning the sex of their fetus through ultrasound. This article examines changes in these consumption patterns through data drawn from personal narratives with 25 women divided between two cohorts—those who gave birth in the 2000s and those who gave birth in the1970s. The routine use of ultrasound has encouraged changes in beliefs about the relationship between a fetus and its mother in younger women, which in turn inspires earlier purchases of baby items than was normative 30 years before. Not enough attention is being paid to the fact that newborn babies are more likely today than three decades ago to spend their first few months wearing gendered clothing and being surrounded by gender-specific furniture and objects, which their mothers are purchasing during pregnancy.
This article focuses on participatory forms of capitalism, children’s consumer desires and engagements with a game console. The Nintendo DS is needed in order to enter a gaming world where relationships are built between children and non-human objects with human-like capacities. The discussion proposes that playing a simulation game, Nintendogs, tells us a more general story about how social relations are affected and shaped by technologies. In order to understand consumer desires in a nuanced manner, how they are supported and how they become intensified in everyday discourse and practice, it is important to examine ways in which commodities sustain distributed agency and participate in chains of interaction. Together these different aspects open for scrutiny the fundamental ways in which commodities and consumer desires contribute to the production of human beings. On the one hand desire becomes manifest as longing for commodities and social recognition, on the other, it is also a form of self-preservation that promotes social engagements with various kinds of entities, real or imaginary.
This article aims to contribute to an understanding of the phenomenon of the commercialization of education, through an analysis of the messages of a consumer education curriculum which was initiated by the Ribua Ha-kahol chain of supermarkets for junior high schools in Israel. The fieldwork included an ethnographic study and revealed two prominent images of the consumer in the program’s contents and activities: "the wise consumer" and "the enterprising self." The article reflects upon the nature of empowerment that is presented through the utilitarian–individualistic figure of the consumer and probes the way the consumer choice ideology masks power relations. Conversely, the article presents an alternative, feminist approach that places emphases on the "relational self" and rejects the assumption that people act first and foremost as selfish and efficient agents. Finally, the article calls for a relational approach that will inspire an "encumbered empowerment" to consumer education and will urge pupils to infuse their self-reflecting thoughts, based on their own consumer experiences.
In the summer of 2011, in the wake of some of India’s worst corruption scandals, a civil society group calling itself India Against Corruption was mobilizing unprecedented nation-wide support for the passage of a strong Jan Lokpal (Citizen’s Ombudsman) Bill by the Indian Parliament. The movement was, on its face, unusual: its figurehead, the 75-year-old Gandhian, Anna Hazare, was apparently rallying urban, middle-class professionals and youth in great numbers—a group otherwise notorious for its political apathy. The scale of the protests, of the scandals spurring them, and the intensity of media attention generated nothing short of a spectacle: the sense, if not the reality, of a united India Against Corruption. Against this background, we ask: what shared imagination of corruption and political dysfunction, and what political ends are projected in the Lokpal protests? What are the class practices gathered under the "middle-class" rubric, and how do these characterize the unusual politics of summer 2011? Wholly permeated by routine habits of consumption, we argue that the Lokpal protests are fundamentally structured by the impulse to remake social relations in the image of products and "India" itself into a trusted brand. Taking "corruption" as a site at which the middle class discursively constitutes itself, we trace the idioms and mechanisms by which the Lokpal agitation re-articulates the very terms of politics, citizenship, and democracy in contemporary India.
Building on prior theorizing on hope, dramaturgy of emotions, and the notion of transfiguration, this paper examines how the Weight Watchers brand elicits and embodies hope among its consumers. Based on the findings from a qualitative study of Weight Watchers, the authors propose a three-stage conceptualization of brand-centric hope cultivation. This conceptualization highlights the importance of collective processes in hope emergence, elevation, and emplacement in which religious vernacular guides how Weight Watchers express and experience brand-centric hope.
Children's birthday parties are celebrations that offer a means to understand consumption values surrounding motherhood that can remain understated or even taken for granted. Mother's consumption activities and the involvement of their child can reveal their management of the commodity frontier. As the marketplace increasingly provides goods and services to support mothers and parenting, the extent to which this is acceptable is a source of anxiety for the enactment of ‘good’ mothering in some social groups. The maternal visibility that birthday parties demand adds further strain. Building from previous work that acknowledges mothers to be the organisers of family celebrations and work that identifies ideologies of motherhood as important in the enactment, or performance, of mothering, this study examined mother–child consumption and the management of the commodity frontier in the preparation and hosting of young children's birthday parties.
The findings show that mothers could publicly demonstrate their intimate knowledge and care for their child by personalising the birthday party through the gift of their time and effort to create a ‘homemade’ event. Although overt commercialisation was managed, do-it-yourself understates the need to consume the constituent elements of the celebration. Instead mothers' abiding care was woven into the party to express something special for the child without material excess. Effortful work, time and emotional energy were all understated in the creation of a memorable event for the child. The underpinning rationalisation asserted that the fun, innocent simplicity of childhood was an imperative. The involvement of the child in consumption for the party allowed the mother to gauge the child's pleasure, teach values and manage the commodity frontier.
This paper explores the emerging relationship between commercial priorities and technological design within children's virtual worlds, through a comparative case study analysis of the promotional contents and marketing features found within six commercial, game-themed virtual worlds targeted specifically to children under the age of 13: Disney's Club Penguin and Toontown, Mattel's BarbieGirls, Cookie Jar's Magi-Nation, Nickelodeon's Nicktropolis, and Corus Entertainment's GalaXseeds. Focusing on key trends identified across all six cases, the paper argues that these games are designed to mobilize virtual economies for real money transaction and self-promotion, utilizing game mechanics, virtual items, and other features for various forms of branding and third-party advertising strategies. A critical analysis of these trends and other relevant findings is provided, through a consideration of how such processes work to mobilize players' affective labor, while concurrently limiting potentially important opportunities for participation, communication, access, and cultural rights, such as freedom of speech.
Today, medications are central to both formal and familial healthcare systems. This article examines medications as ingrained and socio-culturally significant features of domestic landscapes. We consider the everyday medicative practices of four mothers who care for their chronically ill children in the home. Our analysis examines how these mothers navigate an information-rich environment to make decisions on what medications their children will consume. We document how participants develop expertise, research and administer medications, monitor their children’s reactions to medications and revise their efforts to care accordingly. Ideas about gifting provide new insights into the appropriation and transformation of medications within familial caregiving practices.
The economic crisis that Spain has been facing since 2008 has produced significant effects in the way citizens are dealing with consumption. Beyond austerity practices and concerns about an uncertain future, there is a rising anxiety about the sustainability of current consumption patterns. Moreover, it is interesting to analyse how consumption evolves in a situation in which the budget is highly constrained. How do people from different social classes perceive consumption under these circumstances? Our contribution deals with those issues using data from a focus groups based research project whose main goal was to map necessities and consumption practices in Spain, trying to assess the impact of the crisis. In this article we will discuss the results focusing on how different groups of interviewees elaborate a discourse about it which ranges from guilt to a strong moral discourse related to the adequate level of consumption. We consider that this paper might provide a deeper knowledge of the relationship between consumption and social class in a context of financial and economic crisis.
We investigate how material poverty functions as a cultural space, specifically addressing when it becomes a strategy, that is, when an individual with cultural and social capital adopts a life of low income in order to form other social identities. We examine two groups that use low income to further other goals but differ in their temporal lens: (1) "transitional bourgeoisie," graduate students and artists who frame their economic deprivation as a temporary means to prospective identities, such as a professorship or success in art; (2) "embedded activists," committed adults rooted in political and religious organizations who see low income as a permanent strategy to bolster their anti-consumerist desires. Relying on 37 in-depth interviews with informants we ask, how do people in strategic poverty construct satisfying lives? What cultural tools and skill-sets do informants draw upon to negotiate their economic circumstances and middle-class backgrounds?
Themes of rationing, scarcity and frugality have become increasingly prominent in UK food discourses of recent years, and the historical period of ‘austerity Britain’ (1939–1954) has proved to be a key symbolic resource in these debates. This article considers the conjunction of food, culture and ‘austerity’, and explores how austerity discourse might inform British consumers’ understanding of global food systems. It notes that critical work on commodity de/fetishization tends to focus on geographical knowledges, and seeks to complement this research by attending to the role that historical resources play in rendering food commodity systems intelligible. Through an analysis of an exhibition at the Imperial War Museum London, and in particular the iconographic site of the ‘austerity larder’, the article considers the extent to which austerity discourse offers a legible index of food commodity chains, raises questions about fragility of supply, and makes food scarcity visible. The analysis reveals some of the ways in which historical geographies of consumption may shape consumer imaginaries. The article concludes by identifying some of the issues that arise from the recourse to history, and by arguing for further attention to the symbolic work that historical resources perform in contemporary consumer culture.
This article addresses the issue of social media from the perspective of prosumption. The term social media has recently replaced the descriptive discourse on new media and communication technologies. This change implies that, from among the various uses of new media and communication technologies, one use has prevailed. There is no consensus about the exact meaning of the term social media and several scholars still prefer the descriptive approach. The concept of prosumption, which claims that with the rise of digital technologies the barriers separating production from consumption have disappeared, might explain the distinctiveness of social media. This article explores this idea and expectations about the social potential of merging production and consumption in social media by focusing on the issue of audience participation. First, it traces various understandings of agency and subjectivity in the historical conceptions of the audience within media and communication studies. Second, it argues for a conceptual approach to the issues of agency and subjectivity. It proposes the concept of the dispositive as that which simultaneously addresses historical and conceptual issues, presents its implications for the interpretation of social media, and argues for the suitability of the theory of the dispositive for conceptualizing the social potentials of social media.
This article elaborates an explanatory framework for the role of consumption practices in transitions to (enhanced) sustainability in the food system. To develop an applied practice approach we combine the concept of ‘practice’ with that of ‘niche/regime’, adopted from contemporary sociology and transitions theory, respectively. This re-combination adds to the field of applied consumption research and describes consumption beyond the boundaries of individualist and structuralist models, as well as integrates a conceptualization of the a-linear reproduction of aligning and competing consumer practices.
We illustrate the methodology by showing its application drawing on data of a niche in the Belgian food system. Elaborating on the social practice model based on Giddens ((1984) The Constitution of Society. Cambridge: Polity Press), Bourdieu ((1976) Outline of a Theory of Practice. New York: Cambridge University Press) and Spaargaren and Van Vliet ((2000) Lifestyles, consumption and the environment: The ecological modernisation of domestic consumption. Environmental Politics 9(1): 50–76), we designate a three-tiered framework that endeavours to describe consumption practices in terms of everyday routines and habits, integrating an agency perspective with a dual perspective on structure.
Consumer interviews and focus groups combined with a system analysis of the context of the alternative food practice allowed a schematization of what it implies to be a carrier of the niche practice. The practice schematizations of this niche are then considered vis-à-vis a schematization of the regime practice. The comparison shows two essential aspects: it points out that (1) although qualitative and systemic differences are found between niche and mainstream practices, in both cases the perception of the carriers (i.e. consumers) on what they need to do is to an equal extent normalized, and (2) empirical results indicate that central conceptions in the contemporary food consumption discourse, such as convenience, can in real life be redrawn by entirely different sets of interconnected routines.
We reflect on the methodology and give suggestions as to how consumption governance could orientate towards practices as complementary to the traditional focus on individual consumer behaviour and consumer norm targets.
By describing how consumers are qualified and mobilised in advertising agencies, this paper aims to contribute to this increasing body of literature that explores ordinary marketing and advertising practices, knowledge and devices. This is done by unpacking and analysing a particular aspect of routine advertising work, which is the production and circulation of insights about consumers in advertising agencies. We argue that producing insight involves performing a particular type of qualification of the consumer that relates to two specific processes. Firstly, we describe these practices in terms of an a extensive process of mediation that involves the deployment of progressive definitions of products and consumers that pass by different actors in the agency and through which production and consumption are connected in the very local and specific space of the advertising agency. Secondly, we argue that this process of mediation goes together with a process of ‘purification’ that involves performing a specific version of the consumer aligned with creative advertising work. Furthermore, we describe how this process involves considering some specific consumer qualities and descriptions (mostly interpretations about possible connections between goods and consumers) and leaving others asides. We identify this last operation as a particular type of cultural calculation. This argument is empirically supported by evidence collected from 40 interviews with advertising professionals and ethnographic fieldwork carried out at eight advertising agencies based in Santiago, Chile.
Being ‘hip’ is nowadays considered a crucial source of social prestige in the fields of fashion and music which are in a state of constant flux and revaluation. Being ‘in the know’ of new developments in the cultural field has consequently been discussed as an alternative to a status hierarchy based on social class as Bourdieu described it. In-depth interviews with young people deeply involved in urban culture scenes reveal a different perspective: They dismiss following trends which is seen as shallow, boring and too easy. Instead, their central concerns are authenticity and individuality. While the participants emphasize their openness and acceptance of other people’s tastes, not submitting oneself to any set style regimes is considered admirable. Bourdieu’s concept of naturalness turns out to be a useful theoretical approach that captures the kind of authenticity that the interviewees are performing.
Creativity in the kitchen is a normal part of everyday life in US homes. This article explores improvisation by mothers in home cooking as exemplary of the creative process. Western analyses of creativity have typically examined innovation after-the-fact, and showed how something innovative constitutes something novel that is discontinuous with the past. This is reading creativity "backward" in terms of outcomes. We provide a "forward" reading of creativity that examines the conditions and constraints which give rise to improvisation. This offers insight into cooking as a form of personal and social creativity that is grounded in the familiar, and infused with cultural values of self-expression and pleasing the family. This article thus discusses how improvisation is shaped by individual agency and social structure. Creative behavior is limited yet inspired by the material, social and symbolic constraints of the context in which it occurs, including in this case the broader context of the politics of food. Our forward reading of creative cooking practices indicates how cultural production leads to social change through the mediation of agency and structure.
The paper analyses the relationship between social status, alcohol consumption and taste, using a Danish company as empirical case. Methodologically as well as theoretically, the paper is inspired by Bourdieu. A social space tied to socioeconomic status and gendered work positions is constructed using specific multiple correspondence analysis. Hereafter, a range of variables measuring alcohol-related practices and preferences are analysed, showing that specific drinking styles and alcohol preferences are associated with specific positions in the company’s status space. An omnivorous drinking style, embracing a broad variety of beverage types, drinking contexts and drinking companions is associated with high positions in the firm, as are specific types of drinks and specific reasons for drinking. The paper discusses drinking patterns as both a reflection of and a contribution to social status differences.
This article analyses the politics of consumption through contesting discourses rationalizing the interethnic trade of silver beakers and tankards carried out between two Romanian Roma groups. The members of these groups regard such objects as scarce prestige goods and political trophies imbued with emotional and identity value. The examined discourses focus on consumer practices and value preferences attributed to the negatively defined, ethnic other, and give a central role to strategies such as classification (or definition) struggles, moral criticism and stereotyping. The analysis demonstrates how members of these groups attach different meanings to the concept of a good/normal/ideal life, and to dichotomies such as average standard of living and luxuries, morally acceptable and morally stigmatized modes of consumption, and consumer modernism and conservatism when they explain their consumer choices. The analysis furthermore shows how – through the strategies mentioned above – these Roma construct their respective ethnic interpretations of consumer moral superiority.
Recent discussions of music listening practices have given priority to the digitalisation of sound and the role of digital music players in changing the form, medium and possibly even the content of listening. While such an emphasis is warranted given the rapid uptake of digital music consumption, it is also the case that vinyl records are currently the fastest growing area of music sales. Moreover, within particular music listening circles, the vinyl record is approached as an auratic object. In this paper, we explore the vinyl’s persistence on the market and its rekindled cultural prominence. Using the frameworks of cultural sociology, combined with insights from material culture studies and cultural approaches to consumption within business studies and sociology, we explore the reasons why vinyl records have once again become highly valued objects of cultural consumption. Resisting explanations which focus solely on matters of nostalgia or fetish, we look to the concepts of iconicity, ritual, aura and the sensibility of coolness to explain the paradoxical resurgence of vinyl at the time of the digital revolution.
Since their entry to Japan in the latter half of the 19th century, coffee and coffee shops have been closely linked to the economic, political, and socio-cultural change undergone by the Japanese society. The cafés themselves have gone through numerous transformations in order to address the various social needs of their patrons. Today, coffee shops occupy a significant niche in the Japanese urban lifestyle. However, the cultural ‘baggage' of coffee as a foreign commodity still plays a central role in generating its consumer appeal. Coffee is a global commodity whose value on the world market is surpassed only by oil. Moreover, due to its peculiar historical background, it became a beverage charged with a wide range of cultural meanings; tracing these meanings in different contexts can shed light on the way cultural commodities ‘behave' in the globalized world. In order to examine the niche that coffee occupies in the Japanese consumption scene, I will analyze the manner in which representations of coffee are constructed and translated into a consumer experience. Through the case of coffee in Japan I will try to demonstrate the process of ‘movement of culture', whereby the relevance of a foreign commodity in the local context is determined by the complex interplay between two culturally engineered binary entities of ‘global' and ‘local', ‘foreign' and ‘native'.
This article considers the relationship between urban brands, consumption and socio-spatial division in the city, drawing on recent theoretical developments in the sociology of brands and empirical material from a study of the Exchange District in the city of Winnipeg, Canada. Focusing on the theme of creativity, the article uses interview data to examine how middle class residents, workers and visitors engage with the creative possibilities and cultural consumption the Exchange District brand offers. At stake in this process is not only the surfacing of a particular kind of creative culture and neighborhood, but also the performance and positioning of middle class identities. In this process, creativity is elaborated in contradictory and often unintended ways. Parallel to existing work on authenticity and class, the article argues that different notions and practices of creativity are bound up with tensions between moral and cultural boundaries, constituting horizontal divisions between the middle classes who inhabit this urban space.
Soap opera is a potent cultural site for Malay women to imagine the meanings of modernity. Initially the Malaysian government promoted non-Western soap operas to circulate the state’s vision of alternative Asian-style modernities. Now the authorities have voiced a concern that some images and discourses of transnational modernity articulated even in non-Western soaps pose a threat to the cultural integrity of Malay women. This paper studies the significance of non-Western soaps to an understanding of gendered expectations and the progressive re-territorialization of the socio-political order in the context of an ethos of mediatized cultural globalization. Our referent is patriarchal Islamist state Malaysia. We conduct an empirical case study exploring Malay Muslim women’s negotiation and understanding of non-Western soap operas in Malaysia. Results from a series of guided in-depth interviews with 12 rural and urban Malay women enable us to understand how they negotiate their position as viewers of these non-Western soaps, given the criticism about the supposed immorality of these programs. We argue that Malay women act as strategic audiences who mobilize sophisticated viewing tactics that we call ‘watching competencies’ to negotiate the pleasures and potential conflicts of their access to non-Western soaps. This research indicates that Malay women are neither passive, vulnerable consumers of foreign soap, nor easily manipulated by those who claim authority; rather, they confidently assert their autonomy as consumer-citizens of a modern Islamic state.
The global agrifood system is examined in various scholarly literatures, including consumption studies, which are not well integrated. This paper presents data on producer–consumer relations from a small agroecology (vegetable box) scheme in England in order to ground an analysis of ‘ethical consumption’ within this wider agrifood context. It draws on the work of Daniel Miller in particular in order to theorise consumer motivations among box scheme customers, while critiquing the implicit ‘eco-pragmatism’ of Miller and of other consumption sociologies. Employing a range of perspectives – including McKim Marriott’s transactional analysis and the agrarian populist impetus in the food sovereignty movement – the paper articulates a revised green critique of contemporary consumerism which, it is argued, can illuminate some of the theoretical presuppositions of consumption theory and inform emerging efforts to establish agroecology and sustainable food production.
By investigating the second hand clothing trade and consumption discourse in the Philippines, this paper enlarges existing global knowledge and serves as an initial attempt to map this phenomenon in South East Asia. It argues that regional and national opinions could be located in a continuum. At one end is a noticeably modern and functional outlook, and on the other is a distinctly postmodern and constructionist perspective. It shows that a nation’s particular discourse is an expression of its socio-economic context. However, since the used clothing trade is a global phenomenon that transcends national boundaries, used clothing traders, retailers, and consumers unite in challenging the beliefs driven by institutions that regulate and compete with this trade. The response of these institutions has blurred the boundaries separating the formal and informal, the legal and illegal, and the Philippines exemplifies this.
Recent insights from critical social theory suggest that consumption and production co-constitute each other; a phenomenon referred to as ‘prosumption’. It is further suggested that contemporary prosumption dynamics could alter the form of capitalism. In this article, we argue that recent literature and research on the intersection between capitalism and nature conservation are highly relevant in engaging these claims. Predominantly but not solely through interactive web 2.0 applications, conservation organisations are increasingly drawing consumers into the production of conservation, thereby enabling them to ‘prosume’ and co-create (narratives about and images of) ‘nature’ as well as their own identities as environmentally conscious citizens. We argue that prosumption is an intensification of earlier capitalist attempts at generating ‘value-producing labour’ from commodity-sign values. Ethnographic engagements with nature conservation in eastern and southern Africa, in turn, show that this value-producing labour is inherently material through its concealed connections with contradictory conservation realities in the context of late capitalism.
The ideologies of intensive mothering and risk society place increasing burden on mothers to make critical choices regarding infant feeding that are understood as having irreversible consequences for their children's long-term health and emotional well-being. Although research has examined consequences of these ideologies on mothers’ decisions to breastfeed or formula-feed their infants, little has focused on consumer decisions regarding formulas, baby food and feeding-related items. This article examines symbolic meanings attached to infant food and feeding-related consumer items among first-time mothers in the United States. Results indicate broad categories of baby-oriented consumerism—qualities and characteristics mothers sought for their babies through feeding-related consumer behaviors—and mother-oriented consumerism—qualities and characteristics mothers sought for themselves through consumer behaviors. Baby-oriented consumerism included health, comfort, taste and development, and mother-oriented consumerism included knowledge/control, compliance, convenience, frugality, relationships and self-image.
In recent years concerns surrounding the impact of humans on the environment and other humans have been increasingly voiced in the West, particularly in relation to the production–consumption chain. This article aims to explore the trajectories of these social and environmental concerns via the promotion of an explicitly ethical product: sustainable tourism. What follows shall presents a brief account of the ways in which consumer goods are increasingly suggested to offer a means to the ‘external’ promotional of an ‘internal’ self. With this in mind it will then be suggested that such a vision of the self is too simplistic and Foucault’s understanding of power, knowledge and ethics briefly presented. This article shall then move on to explore the methodology adopted in the present research, offering an account of the use of the internet in data collection and the framework for analysis employed. Following this the article will turn to explore, via the promotion of sustainable tourism on the internet, the ways in which potential sustainable tourists are being invited to understand themselves as ‘ethical’ and ‘experiment with subjectivity’. Finally, some brief thoughts will be offered regarding the implication of such understandings of ethics and sustainability for both the potential tourist and host community.
Cute has become the favored language of (the predominantly female) popular consumer culture. This paper examines the roots of "cute" and its evolution with reference to its relevance to marketers. We follow the cultural appropriation of Japan’s "Kawaii" by the Western "cute", and introduce a social, marketing-oriented description and analysis of the concept. We present its socio-cultural, experiential, symbolic, and ideological relevance to consumption in general, and to consumer culture theory in particular. This examination steers clear of scientific generalizations prevalent in consumer behavior research and aims, instead, to illuminate the cultural dimensions of the consumption cycle, and allow a better understanding of what it is like to form social attachment and loyalty in the context of cute consumption and consumer culture theory. Especially interesting questions arise regarding the trans-social acculturating elements of cute, as well as the apparent mainstreaming (cultural appropriation) of the cute Asian subculture into the dominant Western consumer and material cultures.
This paper examines the plurality of ethical consumption and aims to illustrate how consumers cope with its complexity in the context of everyday food consumption. This study seeks to outline the tensions that consumers inevitably face when pursuing ethical choices and to shed light on the various ways in which they solve these tensions in the rhythms of everyday life. The research applies Boltanski and Thévenot's theory of orders of worth as an interpretive framework. The research data has been collected from Finnish online discussion forums in which consumers debate various aspects of ethical food consumption. The analysis indicates that the participants in the discussions recognize various understandings of ethical consumption that may be accompanied by insecurities about the ‘right’ ones. However, the research suggests that consumers are able to solve fundamental tensions in ethical food consumption by carrying out different types of practices.
Collective conventions play a significant role in resource consumption, in particular habitual, inconspicuous consumption ingrained in daily practices. To embed pro-environmental default practices in everyday life, an understanding of materiality, habits and cultural context is useful. Household rituals consume environmentally critical resources; laundry provides an example of this phenomenon, cleanliness collective conventions leading to inconspicuous routinised consumption of laundry resources (water, energy).
Intervening into cleanliness conventions, 31 people in Melbourne were engaged to wear the same pair of jeans for three months without washing them. Transcripts from interviews about their experience were used to draw insights on how individual courses of actions are shaped by collective conventions. Participants’ experience of materiality, habits and cultural context indicate that to save environmental resources shifting collective conventions may be more effectual than challenging individual routines. This paper explores some of the opportunities in intervening into the inconspicuous consumption of laundry routines and shifting collective conventions towards low wash acceptance, with implications for other mundane resource-consuming lifestyle practices.