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Entrapments of consumerism: Adolescent prisoners, cognitive treatment, and consumption

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Journal of Consumer Culture

Published online on


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.