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The three sociological types of consumer work

Journal of Consumer Culture

Published online on


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."