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Responsibility of consumers to consider sustainability in their consumption habits is a common topic of discussion in the “greening” of society. Moral concerns were outlined by foundational free-market economist Adam Smith in the 1700s. Roger Bucholz suggests that the Protestant ethic provided moral limits on consumption by individuals during the early stages of industrialization in Western Europe and the United States, and that this ethic eventually weakened during the development of a consumer society.

Academic studies on consumption did not flourish until the 1950s, when consumer society greatly magnified. Yet Dan Miller's anthology Acknowledging Consumption cites studies as early as the 1890s by William James, founder of pragmatism, linking self-identify of common man with possessions. Not long after James, Thorstein Veblen coined the term conspicuous consumption ...

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