Consumer Culture, Modernity and Identity


Edited by: Nita Mathur

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    A few discussions with academic fraternity around the conspicuous presence of consumer culture and concern with ‘being modern’ that, in fact, stare the traditional social order in the face pressed the idea that we should do something about it. Two options were available: first was to examine the rich and the poor, the young and the old people's tryst with consumer culture and aspiration to be modern in their everyday lives extensively drawing from a cross section of societies in different parts of the world; the second was to focus on a single society and develop insights into how people use consumption and a sense of modernity to promote normative ideas about individual and collective identities. Since both alternatives seemed irresistible, I chose to first invite contributions on societies from different parts of the world and task myself to engage with the intensive study of a single society sometime later.

    This book offers analysis of people's articulation of consumer culture in five countries: the United States, India, Turkey, Czech Republic and Russia. Appreciating complexities and contradictions in the course of carving out the present volume has been an arduous yet enjoyable process and to which friends and colleagues have contributed generously. At the outset, I owe gratitude to Daniel Cook, Department of Childhood Studies, Rutgers University, New Jersey, who graciously consented to circulate my call for papers through the Consumer Studies Research Network (CSRN). I am grateful to all the contributors who responded to the call as also others who acceded to my personal request to write for this collection of essays. I much appreciate the encouragement and support of my colleagues and friends at the Indira Gandhi National Open University: Kaustuva Barik, Kiranmayi Bhushi, Neena Kanungo, Tribhuwan Kapur, Kapil Kumar, Rabindra Kumar, Saugato Sen, Jaideep Sharma, Debal K Singha Roy, Archana Singh, Jagpal Singh, Rashmi Sinha and R. Vashum. I am grateful to friends Himani and Umesh Pandey and Pralay Kanungo for sharing my concerns. Nilika Mehrotra from JNU was around and facilitated my work as always.

    I acknowledge the Duke University Press for permission to reprint the following excerpted material from William Mazzarella's book: Shoveling Smoke: Advertising and Globalization in Contemporary India, copyright, 2003, Duke University Press:

    ‘Citizens Have Sex, Consumers Make Love: Kama Sutra I’, pp. 59–98. All rights reserved. Republished by permission of the copyright holder.

    ‘The Aesthetic Politics of Aspiration: Kama Sutra II’, All rights reserved. Republished by permission of the copyright holder.

    R. Chandra, Alekha Chandra Jena, Archa Bhatnagar and their team at SAGE have pursued the manuscript painstakingly.

    Vocabulary fails me to express gratitude to my family particularly Vidit for providing most happy moments of distraction to which I looked forward and my parents who kept pressing me for bringing out another book. I am waiting to see the glimmer of joy in their eyes when I present the first copy.


    The present age seems to be marked, among others, by consumer culture as an overarching and pervasive element of social life in both the mainland and the hinterland. Contemporary societies across the globe are largely marked by consumer culture that is made possible by the rise of disposable incomes in the hands of the middle classes and increasing availability of a large variety of commodities in the open market. Commercial brands and luxury commodities have come to serve as signifiers of identity in society and legitimized consumer culture that is made visible in terms of its referents: images, commodities and ‘high-class’ consumption as also their articulation in daily lives of people. By choice or by compulsion, people interpret and respond to it in different ways as they construct, deconstruct and reconstruct their social identities.

    What makes for prolonged and rigorous interest of both laypersons and academics in consumer culture, modernity and identity is their persuasive presence in their own lives, and reflection on the contemporary social situation and societal trends. Everyday lives of majority of people across the world have come to be gripped by commodities that serve as signs in the sense of acquiring meaning from the relative and hierarchical position in the social context. The use of commodities for social competition and impressing superiority can be traced to the last quarter of the sixteenth century when Elizabeth I was engaged in outrageous display of consumption at a massive scale that pushed the nobleman to follow at close quarters. This had deep implications as McCracken (1988: 12) writes

    When noblemen began to establish new patterns of consumption as a result of Elizabeth's prompting and their own status anxieties, they began to change the fundamental nature of both the Elizabethan family and the Elizabethan locality. These changes had their own profound implications for the consumption of this and later periods in England's history.

    Seventeenth and eighteenth centuries witnessed the spread of competitive consumption (Goodman and Cohen, 2004).

    To use the term ‘consumer culture’, Featherstone (2007: 82) explains,

    is to emphasize that the world of goods and their principles of structuration are created to the understanding of contemporary society. This involves a dual focus: firstly, on the cultural dimension of the economy, the symbolization and use of material goods as ‘communicators’ not just utilities; and secondly, on the economy of cultural goods, the market principles of supply, demand, capital accumulation, competition, and monopolization which operate within the sphere of lifestyles, cultural goods and commodities.

    Consumer culture has deep roots in the Fordist mass production with emphasis on social class and later post-Fordist small-batch production with emphasis on choices of consumers. The transition from Fordism to post-Fordism, attributed to the late twentieth century, marked the subordination of production to consumption facilitated by an intelligent switch to flexible specialization geared to the consumers’ taste, whims and fancies. According to Slater (1997: 10), Fordist mass consumption that is often regarded as the pioneer of consumer culture gave way to

    a newer and truer consumer culture of target of niche marketing in which the forging of personal identity would be firmly and pleasurably disentangled from the worlds of both work and politics and would be carried out in world of plural, malleable, playful consumer identities, a process ruled over by the play of image, style, desire and signs.

    The ‘newer and truer’ consumer culture is individual oriented in character and in contrast with its predecessor that was family oriented. Slater (1997) explains that consumer culture is, in essence, the culture of the modern West. It influences everyday lives of people since it is more generally bound up with central values, practices and institutions that underlie Western modernity in terms of choice, individualism and market relations.

    The inextricable connectedness between consumer culture and modernity is historically tenable, as Slater (1997) presents, through four gateways. First is the sixteenth century in which consumer goods came to occupy place of significance in social lives of people. Fashion and style emerged as significant elements of consumption that led to the rise of consumer culture. The new kinds of markets led to the development of infrastructure organization and practices to deal with them. Fashion and style came to be treated as signifiers of social status. The second is the redefinition of consumption in relation to commerce largely in the eighteenth century. This was founded on the understanding that individuals had the freedom to make and exercise choices of commodities that they wished and could afford to buy. Third is the 1920s commonly identified as the first consumerist decade but which is the fallout of the development between 1880 and 1930. This was the era of mass production of consumer goods. Fourth is the period of neo-liberalism (the world-wide beginnings of which are ascribed to the 1980s) marked by economic progress, consumer sovereignty and wide ramification of materialism in people's lives as they get uprooted from core social identities. In fact, the ‘ideological miracle carried out by 1980s consumer culture was to tie this image of unhinged superficiality to the most profound, deep structural values and promises of modernity: personal freedom, economic progress, civic dynamism and political democracy’ (p. 11).

    This book presents an understanding of the articulation of consumer culture and modernity in everyday lives of people in a transnational framework. It is envisaged to develop this understanding by juxtaposing specific, empirical studies on consumer culture, modernity and identity with critical traditions. The 13 theoretical chapters in the book trace manifestations and trajectories of consumer culture and modernity as they connect to develop a sense of renewed identity. The urgent questions addressed are: How do people imagine modernity and identity in consumer culture? What does modernity or ‘being modern’ mean to people in different societies? How does modernity contradict/coincide/develop an interface with tradition? The chapters are grouped into the following themes: lifestyle choices and the construction of modern identities; global markets, local needs: fashion and advertising; and subaltern concerns and moral subjectivities. Consumer culture is subject to specificities governed by social, cultural and economic factors. Given the wide variation in consumption patterns across the globe, it is nearly impossible to do justice to all the variants of consumer culture in a single volume. It is pertinent, however, to present select cases not overlooking the common features sweeping across societies. The chapters in this book deal with five distinct locales of consumer culture.

    The first is the United States representing large-scale economies and high-end consumption societies. The roots of consumer culture in American society are deep. The period following end of World War II marked an increase in the rate of consumption in America that got checked to some extent in late 2007 when the economic recession set in. Ritzer (2010: 31) writes,

    On a per capita basis, Americans were apt to consume more of virtually everything than people in most, if not all, other nations of the world … In the realm of services, Americans became the world leaders in the consumption of medical, psychiatric, legal, and accounting services. It is not just that they consumed more of everything, but more varieties of most things were available to, and used by, American consumers than those of most other nations.

    Consumer culture seems to have trapped both the rich and the poor, the powerful and the powerless, and the well known and the lesser known.

    The second is India providing fertile ground for study of consumer culture for the reason that consumption sets the benchmarks for middle classes’ assessment of their position in society. Those with financial constraints feel pushed to engage with conspicuous consumption.

    The economic reforms of the 1990s that opened the gates to the world market registered a fairly prolonged period of economic growth. The social consequence was the emergence of new lifestyles that fed urges of large section of people, particularly the middle classes, for exercising individual choice and engaging with leisure and pleasure of consumption generating a sense of confidence and feeling good (Brosius, 2010). Concomitantly, slogans such as ‘India Shining’ and ‘Modern India’ have come to represent it all both at the domestic level (providing confidence to the people at large) and international level (providing confidence to overseas investors).1 What adds importance to the India case is the contradiction in the reception to economic reforms by the people. According to Ganguly-Scrase and Scrase (2011), economic liberalization is not an accepted dogma; its processes have evoked much dissatisfaction among the people belonging to different sections of society. For most, aspirations are not matched by the material gain. This may be appreciated in juxtaposition with their overall assessment that the consumer revolution in India is pushing a wide range of products (both locally produced, and imported) in the market space to feed the savings of ‘consumer junkies’.

    The third is Turkey, for the reason that it is negotiating for membership in the European Union and more importantly because it represents geopolitical connect between the west and the east. The resurgence of Turkey from the economic crisis of 2001 (in the course of which Turkish Lira depreciated and financial burden on the government increased due to sudden rise in the rate of government's debt instruments) has influenced modernity and consumer culture tremendously. With GDP per capita of US$10,000 (in 2012) implying proportionately large disposable income in the hands of the people it is an emerging free-market economy driven by its industry and service sectors. The World Bank classifies Turkey as an upper middle-income country. Predictably, it is an important destination for marketers. According to Yalcinkaya (2009), consumerism is most robust in the areas of retailing trends, use of credit or credit cards and consumption of imported goods. Unfortunately, the Gini coefficient of the country is 0.43 confirming wide inequality in income and wealth.

    The fourth is Czech Republic because it has undergone several social twirls and twists in transition from centrally planned economy to market economy since the late 1980s; and remnants of communism that rested on moralistic distinction between ‘necessities’ and ‘luxuries’2 that continue to influence people's agency in consumer society. The Czech Republic is a special case in presenting the practice of consumer culture by the elderly. The present-day Czech elderly are cautious consumers. Contemporary consumer society holds out disorienting experience for many elderly people in the post-revolutionary Czech Republic. They have been witness to the transition from controlled economy to market economy and had had limited personal experience of life under communism but are now confronted with ubiquity of choice and the need to take full responsibility of their choices. This is extremely difficult for them given the fact that they were used to and appreciative of the availability of limited choice. Also, they suffer from a sense of loss as main providers in the family and seek to compensate it by buying commodities for the children which creates tension between the two generations.

    The fifth is Russia and what makes it special for developing an understanding of consumer culture, modernity and identity is the transition from a conservative and centrally planned to consumer-driven economy. Soviet period witnessed production of goods with provision of repair. Notions of luxury and fashion, penchant for material things met with resistance as they are treated antithetical to spirituality. The end of communist regime in Russia and onset of massive inflation, coexistence of abject poverty with abundance and excessive wealth, and conspicuous replacement of Soviet ideology with sheer money-making enterprises and big man politics that came along with has brought about significant transformation in patterns of consumption, particularly in cities. The lifting of rationing and the incoming of foreign goods have encouraged the rich to express style in terms of acquiring greater number of a limited range of status goods rather than diversifying their choices to include a large variety of goods in their carts (Humphyery, 2002; Oushakine, 2000). Shevchenko (2002: 166) adds,

    The opposition between past and present strengthens consumers’ attachment to the older objects of their household possessions but, at the same time, encourages them to acquire more. Representing the different life stages of their owners, these two classes of objects serve as the means through which both the socialist past and the (arguably) capitalist present are endowed with value and meaning.

    Lifestyle Choices and the Construction of Modern Identities

    Several studies have established that consumption of consumer goods and services addresses our identity directly in dual sense of estimating our own and others’ position in society. Giddens (1991) succinctly suggests that the notion of lifestyle becomes exceedingly important in modern social life. As tradition weakens and the interplay between local and global becomes prominent, individuals are confronted with large-scale lifestyle choices that they are virtually forced to negotiate with. He adds that despite the standardizing influences such as commodification, the openness of social life, availability of diverse contexts of action and ‘authorities’ necessitates consideration of lifestyle choices as a significant constituent of self-identity. The emphasis on lifestyle choices influences even seemingly inconsequential decisions taken on an everyday basis such as what a person would wear, eat, do in leisure time, how s(he) would conduct herself/himself at workplace, etc. These are largely decisions regarding not simply how to act but who to be. The construction of identity and of a particular lifestyle is influenced by socio-economic conditions, group pressures and role models (Levy, 1959; McCracken, 1988). Self-identity is a reflexive enterprise, which is factored by an individual's selection of self-image or how/what s(he) chooses to project about herself/himself.

    Shift in focus from production to consumption re-fashioned people's identities as they found themselves liberated from restrictive, sometimes oppressive constructs of identity and vested with the freedom to consume, make consumer choices and present their renewed identities. Commodities are connected with society not only in terms of their ‘use-value’ but also, and perhaps more importantly in the modern age, by their appropriation and usurpation in people's lifestyles. The consumption of commodities is, in effect, the consumption of signs for which reason commodities are defined not as much by their use value as by what they signify. Ritzer (1998: 7) clarifies, ‘And what they signify is defined not by what they do, but by their relationship to the entire system of commodities and signs’.

    More than maximizing satisfaction out of the utility intrinsic to a commodity itself that would in the long run set limit to nature and extent of consumption, consumers tend to consume a diverse variety of commodities and for several reasons. Another feature not emphasized often is the freedom to choose from a wide variety of commodities thereby out ruling the possibility of corner solutions. In fact, the insatiability of the present-day consumers is enhanced by the larger variety of commodities and by the paradoxical promise of consumer culture that either a commodity will satisfy the consumer or there is always another one waiting to be picked up. In a broad framework, consumers are sovereign, as Slater (1997) puts it, in at least two senses. The first is sovereignty of consumers in identifying and formulating their own desires, wants and identities constituting the domain of the private sphere which is free from the influence and interference of external agencies. The second is sovereignty in terms of enforcing the producers to respond to consumers’ preferences and demands. According to Appadurai (1986: 32), demand of modern consumers for commodities is critically regulated by ‘high-turnover criteria of “appropriateness” (fashion), in contrast with the less frequent shifts in more directly regulated sumptuary or customary systems. In both cases, however, demand is a socially generated and regulated impulse, not an artifact of individual whims or needs’. That demand is socially and not individually generated and regulated is what makes production and distribution of commodities a feasible enterprise. This does not, however, foreclose the need for product and price differentiation within a community and across communities.

    Mike Featherstone (in this volume) focuses on the group of extremely rich people with enviable acumen of exploiting opportunities arising out of financial and social deregulation to their advantage that has emerged in different parts of the world. He critically analyzes their consumption spectacles and luxury lifestyles. The glamorized niche that the super-rich have created for themselves is highlighted by the media in a way that it captures public imagination more so because they are projected as highly successful people who live off their exemplary hard work and initiative. What makes a spectacle of the super-rich is not just their sprawling residences, fancy cars, private jets and yachts and overall luxurious lifestyle, but also their indifference to national interests such as contribution to taxation even in times of economic crises. Embroiled in the paper are the twin issues of power and national and social responsibility of such people.

    In India, the meaning of modernity is produced through social, economic and cultural contexts and that it is generated out of different ways in which tradition and modernity get juxtaposed with each other. A person's ideas about what it is to be modern and what modernity per se is largely obtains from the process of socialization, personal experiences and interaction with the peer group. Modernity presents new ways of casting and interpreting tradition. Interestingly modernity creates globalized hybridities that are sensitive to both local value system(s) and nostalgia for traditional ways of being and people's craving for ‘good and modern life’ which it promises.

    Sanjay Srivastava (in this volume) brings together two allegedly separate domains: the modern commercial market represented by the malls and construction of the self as he locates shopping in its social logics and dynamics. He demonstrates how people transpose practices, passions, aspirations and relationships from private settings to the mall bringing out their agency in expanding the scope of the mall from a commercial centre to a site for meaningful social interaction. Drawing on qualitative research in two malls located in Santiago and Chile, Stillerman and Salcedo (2012: 2) contend, ‘Consumers have a reflexive relationship to malls: they are skilful, mindful, and self-critical shoppers, in contrast to the “seduced consumers” described by others.’ Srivastava describes how shopping malls negotiate with the urban imagination to re-fashion the self. This provides a kind of strait between shopping malls, international chains of restaurants, print and electronic media, art and performances facilitated by spatial mobility and electronic communication on a global scale and impresses critical transformation in everyday, ordinary lives of people.

    Shelly Pandey (in this volume) discusses the nature extent of urban women's engagement with consumer culture. She focuses on newly empowered young women working in the BPO sector. The situation is a complex one in that it is fraught with tension between two rival ideologies governed largely by tradition (within which they have grown up and remained committed to) and consumer culture (which attracts, pulls and lures them). At the outset, these women assert their sense of empowerment by adopting ‘Western wear’ (largely jeans/trousers and t-shirts and skirts), buying all that they ever had a fancy for, and having a say in matters (including those related to budgetary allocations) in their own marriage that was earlier ruled out completely. She concludes with the note that seeming social and financial empowerment has not, however, liberated women from the shackles of patriarchy.

    The nostalgia of people for images and experience of tradition-bound ways of life (such as rural art dwelling space and cuisine) is commodified and presented in fabricated enclaves within the city that come for premium. Nita Mathur illustrates this (in the present volume) with examples (from India) of the Chowki Dhani village which is representative of the countryside in the state of Rajasthan, and Pind Balluchi which is a chain of restaurants known for serving ‘authentic’ cuisine from the state of Punjab in a village setting. Both, Chowki Dhani village and Pind Balluchi, draw on the fond memories and reminiscences of older people and familiarize the youth what ‘goodies’ the village had to offer. In the Indian situation, the subculture of modernity is not at crossroads with tradition, rather it branches out from tradition itself and in doing so retains certain aspects. Basi (2009) makes the same point in the case of Indian women working in call centre in mentioning that the local and global do not exist as binary opposites but are constitutive of one another. The markers of tradition-specific practices and motifs are picked up, hence disembedded, from their traditional contexts and remembered in contemporary context which makes them appear more relevant and amenable in the present age of modernity. The image of modernity implies not a total rejection of traditional ways of consuming and leading one's life, but identification of selective and often highly individualized strategy of making choice and maintaining status through one's consumption patterns. This, however, remains within limits for more people and is bordered by traditional values.

    Elliott and Urry (2010: ix–x) write,

    … changes in how people live their lives today are both affected by and reflect the border changes of global mobility processes. Or, more specifically, the increasing mobilization of the world — accelerating carbon-based movements of people, goods, services, ideas and information—affects the ways in which lives are lived, experienced and understood.

    The present one is an age of ‘network culture’, in which Internet has largely influenced the construction, deconstruction and reconstruction of identities. Robert Rattle (in this volume) highlights the opportunities of and avenues that Internet and communication technologies afford for imagining as also expressing identity. Internet and communication technologies have revolutionized consumption insofar as they connect markets globally and offer opportunities of making choices and purchasing commodities through the World Wide Web. According to Ritzer (2001: 157),

    The consumer ceases to be an embodied figure in dealings with the dematerialized means of consumption. Rather, the consumer as subject is reduced to such abstractions as a credit card number and/or a password. The proprietors of cybermalls (themselves members, faceless and formless) deal with similarly disembodied consumers; ones they have no need of ever seeing or ever knowing more about than a credit card number, an e-mail address, and maybe a snail mail address.

    Rattle argues that Internet and communication technologies challenge social and economic hierarchies, wealth distribution and stifling competition that governed construction of identity in the past. They, in turn, provide enabling, distributive, cooperative and egalitarian social environment that has transformed understanding about consumer identity and consequently market structure.

    Global Markets, Local Needs: Fashion and Advertising

    The roots of ‘globalization of markets’ may be traced to the Bretton Woods Agreement of July 1944 that laid out a set of rules that would regulate commercial and financial relations among industrial nations. The period between 1947 and 1973 recorded high rate of growth in output and consumption, near-full employment and recognition of welfare rights in capitalist countries. The developing countries also recorded unprecedented rate of growth in the dawn of an era of free-trade across national boundaries. The enthusiasm for unrestrained free trade was somewhat reined in the meetings of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) wherein selective tariff reduction and provision of protection to states from unequal competition were worked out. In this economic climate, transnational companies that had hitherto (i.e. prior to the Second World War) invested in primary products came to venture into manufacturing. This had two major consequences, one that capital tended to accumulate in richer countries; two that position of the dollar as international currency got further entrenched.

    The Bretton Woods Agreement collapsed between 1971 and 1973 due to several inherent inconsistencies. Thenceforth, there was weakening of the US productive output and consequent decline in international demand for dollar, general slackening of growth and high inflation. The aftermath of the post-war boom that prevailed till the close of 1970s paved the way for neoliberalism in 1980s. Broadly, the policy of neo-liberalism comprised promotion of free market with minimal state intervention, high degree of privatization, and trade liberalization. Countries that had incurred high debts pitched foreign exchange earnings on higher priority than domestic consumption. In the context of the Third World, the period between 1979 and 1982 was characterized by focus of state policy on earning adequate foreign exchange. Two options were envisaged: increasing exports or decreasing imports. It was expected that pro-free market policies would open substantial trade and investment opportunities and that countries would exercise their comparative advantage in the world economy. In the advanced countries, policies favouring the ‘free market’ were launched (Kiely, 2005).

    Neo-liberalism (especially in Thatcherism and Reaganomics) that entailed forceful advocacy of supply side policies was geared towards overcoming economic stagnation and urban deterioration. The objective was to usher-in conditions conducive to sustained economic growth which, it was realized, was being restrained by excessive regulation and state control. Regan favoured an advance towards a free market with reduced intervention of the government and freedom of international trade. He called for massive cut in government expenditure and unprecedented cut in taxation (Healey, 1991; Magazzino, 2012). Consumers gained a great deal from larger supply of goods and services at competitive prices as government lowered barriers for people (e.g. by reducing income tax and capital gains tax rates as also state regulation).

    Intensification of worldwide market relations has resulted in availability of both local and branded commodities and/or services in distant markets, places and localities. This is a dialectical process in the sense that while commodities that had been restricted to better-known markets are made available in local markets and local labels are made available in better-known markets. The deterritorialization of markets has accompanied flow of finances and capital across nations. Cross-border flows of goods and capital have had at least two significant consequences. The first is global economic interdependence that makes revisiting state regulation policies imperative. The second is wide differentiation of goods and services to meet the needs and demands of different societies and development of diverse marketing strategies in terms of product concept and design, packaging, retailing and advertising, and promoting it. In anticipation of saturation of urban markets, some of the major companies are targeting the rural market well aware of people's low per capita spending and tough competition from local, indigenous products. The challenge to gain confidence of the rural masses is compounded by people's beliefs, longstanding familiarity and tradition of using the local, indigenous products and their price sensitivity.

    In India, the Hindustan Lever, for example, found solution in making its products available in small sachets for price conscious consumers; and cola major Coke, decided to lower its price significantly in order to offer its products as a viable option to local soft drinks, beverages and other options (e.g. butter milk, lemon juice, etc.). Furthermore, Coke doubled its outlets in rural areas from 80,000 in 2001 to 160,000 in the following year and pursued more aggressive marketing. Consequently, rural markets came to account for 80 per cent of new Coke drinkers constituting 30 per cent of its total volume (IBEF, 2004). A fairly large number of companies dealing with durable goods have raised the number of their retail outlets and developed innovative means of distribution of their products in rural areas and remote regions. Multinational companies are known to carry out marketing research aimed at assessing both: the people's opinion about and the impact of their product(s)/service(s) on society. The ultimate objective is to develop appropriate marketing strategies (see Rajagopal, 1999 for details). The production of images of material prosperity is rooted in specific national and local cultural climate. Fernandes (2000: 616) explains how local national and global cultures are arbitrated in the following words:

    Multinational companies consistently attempt to associate their products with signifiers of the Indian nation, for instance through sponsorship of the Olympic team in the 1996 Olympics or through more subtle references to specifically Indian conditions such as the monsoon season. Businesses have also increasingly attempted to consciously address social criticism of the negative cultural effects of multinational products.

    This is a part of global cultural flows including in their ambit, what Appadurai (1990) referred to as ethnoscapes, mediascapes, technospaces, finanscapes and ideoscapes. The contention is, whether these flows, and as Castells (1991) mentions in the context of information technologies, space of places and space of flows, erode or impress cultural identities or generate a new identity. The issue is more complex than it seems in the first instance and has been contested in academic discourse for more than a decade.

    Steve Derné, Meenu Sharma and Narendra Sethi (in this volume) critically examine the social and cultural implications of economic liberalization in India over a period of 30 years. Deregulation of the Indian economy, among others, opened the floodgate for transnational television. New programmes promoting largely different cultures many bringing with them role models, values and practices (often sharply contrasted with what the Indian audience were familiar with and/or used to viewing on the national channel all this while) captured the fancy of the middle classes. The exposure to ‘foreign’ culture and lifestyle set the terms of reference for renewed discourse of tradition and modernity in the country especially for the youth for whom modernity meant ‘American lifestyle’, ‘Western education’, ‘use of international brands’, ‘dining at the international chain of restaurants’, and ‘living with a sense of individualism and self-identity’. As Butcher (2003) mentions, male students and low-income employees in Delhi described themselves as ‘progressive’ but not ‘modern’. While they support the spread of education and demise of the caste system and superstition they are influenced by the socialist ideology and associate modernity with ‘the West’ and the ‘rich people’. Elsewhere, Derné (2008) has brought out the tenacity of ideas about familial, kinship and marital relations. Notwithstanding the fact that globalization impacts social groups differently, he has demonstrated that the middle classes tend to selectively pick up those meanings, messages and images from the global media that they are able to relate with their own cultural stereotypes.

    Fashion represents a social force with immense persuasive power to construct, deconstruct and reconstruct identities of people belonging to different classes. Friedman (1992) illustrates the travails of fashion-struck educated youth in politically and economically unstable African Congo between the 1970s and the 1980s. More specifically, fancy for European luxury goods especially haute couture originated from ready availability of access to Europeanized cuisine and clothes in Brazzaville—the French colonial outpost. Engagement with fashionable cuisine and attire was not merely for attracting peer-gaze but more for constructing a sense of distinctive identity that matched with their European masters. Veblen's (1957) chief argument was that fashion served to distinguish the upper classes and was, in fact, engineered by them for this very purpose. However, when the classes realized that their fashion and style practices were being imitated by or getting trickled down, they were impelled to reconstitute themselves. Simmel (1904) too notes that pursuit of fashion combines an individual's tendency towards imitation of a given example leading to social adaptation and social equalization with a resolve of differentiation and dissimilarity. The counter-tendencies juxtapose in a way that fashion of the upper classes remains distinct from that of the lower classes. In fact, the upper classes tend to give up fashion that characterized them no sooner than they realize that it has been appropriated by the latter. At this juncture brand names acquire significance.

    According to Kellner (2012), fashion constitutes a significant site for consumer spectacle that informs the people of what is the ‘in-thing’ and what is outdated in the context of contemporary style. The best known performers in the entertainment industry serve as fashion icons and whatever they wear or do is treated as a statement of style. Interestingly, the spectacles of media culture script people's appearances and their behaviours. In this volume, Douglas Kellner argues that in consumer society, identity is produced and re-produced through fashion and advertising. Concomitantly, identity is fluid and expressive of predominant products, styles and images in the consumer market. Drawing from the example of Michael Jackson, Madonna and Lady Gaga who constantly change their identities, he discusses the complexity and contradictions inherent in fluidity of identity of individual, ethnic, and national levels. He employs critical approach to the visual culture of the image and spectacle to bring out the determinants and forces of identity in postmodern society offering new possibilities, styles and forms. Finkelstein (2012) writes,

    The invention of the fashion label or brand name has given the consumer a sense of social location which promises to neutralize the oceanic disorientation of a limitless horizon of commodities. This sense of location is made to seem part of the allure of fashionability and of the unexpected stabilizing of identity which accompanies signature goods such as McDonald's, BMW, Sony.

    The brand name of commodity or a luxury brand acquires power and importance not essentially because of some intrinsic features of its own, rather ‘partly through its endorsement and appropriation by people who are themselves icons of style, fashion and good life’ (Nayar, 2009: 61).

    In effect, brands serve as symbols, that refer among others, to shared values and meanings that are fashioned under the influence of the desire to be distinguished and identified with a specific group of people known for its upward social mobility and an enviable social position. It comprises those to whom the general public looks up for latest trends in fashion and style. In public discourse, particularly in Asian countries, it is usual to hear that the hub of fashion and modernity so to say is located in the ‘West’. Jackson (2004), however, provides evidence of multiple modernities rather than grounded in simplistic east–west gradient. In fact, lifestyle choices of people suggest shared consumption patterns that could well be suggested by sets of cultural objects that are known to be vested with a distinctive social meaning that distinguish those who appropriate the whole set (Levy, 1959). Conversely, as Holt says,

    lifestyles may be viewed as product of relational differences between consumption patterns in which, differences in meanings embedded in consumption practices, serve as a basis for affiliating with certain types of people and, likewise, as resource for distinguishing oneself from others, reinforcing social positions (and because cultural and social structures are mutually constitutive, the inverse holds as well). (1997: 336)

    An individual tends to maintain a cultural consistency in her/ his use of complements of consumer goods. Better known as, ‘diderot effect’ (after Denis Diderot who first documented the unity in complement of consumer goods) as also ‘consumption constellation’ (Solomon and Assael, 1987), such a tendency foregrounds the practice of consuming distinct sets of objects by different collectivities that tell their identities. According to Holt (1997: 328), ‘This view assumes that categories of consumption objects are imbued with distinct univocal meanings that appeal to some collectivities more than others. Since, tastes in this view are conceived as preferences for particular categories of objects, they can be inferred directly from objects choices.’ Product complementarity occurs when symbolic meanings of different products relate with each other (Solomon, 1983). This understanding has been exploited largely by marketers to present lifestyle concept through expressive symbolism to consumers. Group identities are known to consolidate around conglomeration of products and activities that are used to define particular category (Englis and Solomon, 1997; Solomon, 1983). The choice of products and services incorporated by specific social groups into their lifestyles provides opportunities for specific promotional and advertorial enterprises. Mass production of commodities has necessitated the mobilization of strategies of creating a matching demand for them. Advertisers have struggled to encourage people to transcend the traditional consumer market and buying habits feeding their own fundamentals needs.

    The pursuit of creating a fancy for commodities and services that call for additional financial burden has been arduous and one involving close understanding of local cultures and ideologies of people. In addition, there is a need for webbing them with the culture and ideology surrounding the commodities and services produced for the global markets. William Mazzarella (in this volume) describes how local culture(s), commitments, anxieties, expectations and aspirations drive the advertising industry and themselves get influenced by global culture(s). In a significant addition to writings that suggest inclusion of elements of local culture in advertising, Mazzarella situates the discussion on the practices of advertising in the locale of public culture centring around productions of commodity images. He brings out the menaces, contradictions and concerns surroundings production of commodity images of ‘KamaSutra’ brand of condoms. The chapter integrates the practice of consumption with commercial, political and subversive practices as it focuses on representations and interface between local and global discourse. The challenge creates a market for commodities produced on a large scale which has got tougher as individualism to ‘stand out’ from the crowd has come to the forefront.

    Nowadays, advertising is a complex negotiation between consumers’ desire for exclusiveness and commodities actually available in the market (that may not be customized for each segment of consumers differentiated culturally and economically). By and large, advertisements emphasize the exclusiveness and contemporaneity of an object often justifying the price in terms of its elegance and authenticity. A conspicuous influence of marketing is the creation of universal consumer market segments in which similar meanings get associated with people, places and products) that together form a transnational consumer culture (Alden et al., 1999; Ueltzhoffer and Ascheberg, 1999, cited here from Hill, 2002a: 275). Rather than being adopted as a homogenising force, transnational consumer culture has met with resilience of local consumption cultures. In fact, one of the arguments that Mazzarella (2003) makes in Shoveling Smoke is that it is not just about resilience of already existing ‘local’ consumption cultures, but also about the way transnational marketing produces new conceptions of the local that then come to be experienced as ‘authentically’ local. Consumers indigenize the transnational consumer culture in a manner that it comes across as a fine blend between ‘transnational’ and ‘local’ culture even as modernity is interpreted, experienced and negotiated in terms of local subjectivity (Appadurai and Breckenridge, 1995). Focusing on the resilience of distinctive local consumption cultures, Jackson (2004) reviews Gerasimova's writing (2003) on artful tactics of ordinary consumers in Soviet private economy. Gerasimova presents the case of ‘artful consumption’ referring to personalization of things through mending and repairing them, handing them to successive generation or putting to new use things that have become unfit to serve the purpose for which they were bought in the first place.

    Olga Gurova (in this volume) examines fashion retail as an indicator of the transformation of consumption in Russia in the last two decades. She charts out the trajectory of fashion retail in Russia and what it means to the people at the outset. The beginning of transformation in fashion retail has been traced to the 1990s. Small entrepreneurs came to develop their businesses surrounding fashion retail. Open-air markets, stalls, pavilions and other forms of retail sprang up. Over the years that followed, international and domestic retail chain stores, retail-entertainment centres, fashion centres and retail-parks mushroomed. As Olga Gurova mentions, all forms of retail receive equal patronage of the consumers. In fact, she divides the consumers into five categories: the advanced consumer, the squander, the socialist consumer, the alternative creative consumers and the convenience consumer based on their preference for and ideas about different forms of retail trade. In the process, she sheds light on people's aspirations and the market that sets the expectations from agenda for availability of products and selling environment.

    Marketa Rulikova (in this volume) reinforces the major argument in Gurova's chapter that the socialist ideology continues to persist and manifest itself in people's lives including their values, identities, familial relations and economic and consumption behaviours even after its collapse in 1989–90. She describes senior citizens’ participation in day-long promotional sales tours in buses that turn out to be arduous for the elderly in terms of inconvenience and humiliation meted out to them at the hands of the staff of the retail company that organizes promotional sales tour. Rulikova presents an insightful account of these tours and more importantly the contesting ideologies of the elderly who undertake such tours despite the physical and emotional hardships and the organizers of these tours who in effect, try extremely hard to promote and push their products even as they offer free gifts and other incentives to the prospective clients. Additionally, she locates the agency of the elderly in maintaining intergenerational solidarity in their attempts, of which one is engaging with sales tours in order to remain helpful to their children.

    Subaltern Concerns and Moral Subjectivities

    The history of consumer culture in general is one of exclusionary politics and at the same time an incessant run for mainstreaming lifestyles by the marginalized. Negotiation of identity and social status through consumer culture precludes a sense of fairness to the subaltern. An overwhelming number of people are forced to live with a sense of deprivation arising out of their inability to match up to the consumer lives and identities of their reference groups. Those who are not able to engage with mainstream consumer culture, or do so in a limited way, find themselves entrapped in a compelling situation. The struggle of poor consumers is understandably a hard one. As Lewis (1965: 40–41) explains,

    The culture of poverty is both an adaptation and a reaction of the poor to their marginal position in a class-stratified, highly individuated, capitalistic society. It represents an effort to cope with feelings of powerlessness and despair which develop from the realization of the improbability of achieving success in terms of the values and goals of the larger society. Indeed many of the traits of the culture of poverty can be viewed as attempts at local solutions for problems not met by existing institutions and agencies because, the people are not eligible for them, cannot afford them, or are ignorant or suspicious of them …

    The implication is that despite that poor consumers being well aware of middle class values are not able to incorporate these values in their lives. His contenders, however, maintain that whilst similar values prevail across socio-economic statuses, perceived differences arise out of restrictions on consumption (Jones and Lou, 1999; Valentine, 2001, see Hill and Gaines, 2007 for an overview of critical discussion on the culture of poverty). It is unanimously accepted, however, that financial capital constraints drive them to struggle for survival and the pressure of consumer culture pushes them to engage with conspicuous consumption at the same time.

    In the larger framework of consumer culture, two categories of the subaltern are visible. The first comprises those who are bereft of any means whatsoever to engage with consumer culture. We see them in rags, begging on the streets or toiling hard yet unable to meet both ends. They live below the poverty line, remain excluded from consumer culture and do not envisage a possibility of being a part of it ever. The second category comprises those who earn enough to manage two square meals a day and save a petty amount to meet the contingencies in life and engage with consumer culture. It is this petty amount at hand that makes them to aspire for, as they say, ‘good clothing’ and ‘decent living’ much like that of ‘others’, that is, the middle class in a general sense which serves as their reference group and the images of the luxurious life and living of the upper classes that they get to see in the programmes and advertisements on their television screens which create sense of discomfort, unease and inferiority. Reviewing critical writings on the behaviour of impoverished consumers (Calpovitz, 1967; Hill and Stephens, 1997; Holloway and Cardozo, 1969; Irelan and Benser, 1966; Lee et al., 1999; Richards, 1966; Sturdivant, 1969 among others), Hill (2002a) points out that early scholarship impressed the idea that the poor tend to compensate for their limiting resources and consumption opportunities by making irrational purchase decisions. This was, however, substituted by another one later, which established that rather than compensating, poor consumers pursue the very material goods that the affluent chase and look for their share of socialist wealth. Most of the studies find that the poor are surprisingly more resourceful than one would expect in terms of gaining control over their consumer lives.

    The overbearing pressure to reach out to the ways and means of televised images of luxurious living makes them to cut-down on basic food and other necessities. Varman and Belk (2008) report the case of a low-caste washerman in India who purchased a colour television set out of the money he saved by reducing the consumption of milk by his children. They cite similar findings of Ger (1992) in Turkish society. This trend is representative of a common strategy adopted by the subaltern in order to secure a position of recognition in kinship group and neighbourhood. The other alternative is to incur debt. A number of banks and departmental stores across the world encourage purchase on credit and the convenience of buy-now-pay-later. Instead of planning and making provision ahead of large purchases, people are able to satiate their desires without prolonged delay (even if it calls for regret later). As Andreason (1975) mentions, in order to obtain material abundance, the impoverished obtain excessive debt obligations that are based on careful calculations of the consequences of their actions (cited here from Hill and Gaines, 2007). In the specific context of coping strategies of welfare mothers, Hill and Stephens (1997) propose that women enlarge the spectrum of available goods and services well beyond the limits of economic and social deficits by deploying resource strategies (e.g. social capital) within their communities (Hill and Gaines, 2007). Urban poor engage with consumerist activity and create a world of their own that assures them of showing a path that would lead them to a state of plentitude and abundance as in the case of jhuggi jhopri (shanty dwellers in New Delhi) dwellers (Srivastava, 2010). Hamilton (2008) demonstrates that the impoverished consumers are able to, in fact, employ coping strategies to create a positive self-identity and consumer empowerment. People could anticipate the difficult situations and employ coping strategies to deal with, avert them, or even be proactive in their efforts to manage them. In representing attempts to secure family's best interests, such coping strategies could be interpreted as acts of consumer agency.

    Often, the poor who purchase commodities on credit are hit both by high rates of interest and lower quality products (see Calpovitz, 1967; Coe, 1971; Goodman, 1968; Hill, 2001, 2002a, 2002b; Williams, 1977 for discussion perspective on the plight of those with low income in consumer society). Many seek to enhance their earnings (whether by righteous or illegal means) in order to meet the demands of consumer culture, consumerist lifestyle. Using data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey, Krueger and Perri (2005) conclude that rise in income inequality in the United States is not proportionate to the rise in consumption inequality in the United States. They add,

    Moreover, income inequality has increased substantially both between and within groups of households with the same characteristics (such as education, sex and race), but even though between-group consumption inequality has tracked between-group income inequality quite closely, within-group consumption inequality has increased much less than within-group income inequality. (p. 1)

    For the subaltern, consumer culture comes with several compulsive demands and restraints on free choice. Hamilton (2009) cites the case of an Irish woman who felt compelled to accept her friends’ offers of handing old pair of jeans to her (which they would otherwise throw away) and a few other cases to impress the point that lack of resources results in discontentment with poor consumers’ own life situation. The marginalization from consumer culture instills low self-esteem and perception of powerlessness. Melike Aktaş Yamanoğlu (in this volume) develops an understanding of how the poor youth in Turkey deal with the pressure to engage with conspicuous consumption on an everyday basis and establish their identity in a consumer society fraught with class-based hierarchy. She points out, the print and electronic media, Internet sources as also celebrity shows inform and impress the benchmarks of consumption in mainstream society. Overcoming the ‘demonstration effect’ and keeping up with the Joneses in such a situation is a challenging task for households with lesser income. Their narratives are those of exclusion from mainstream society and ones in which they see themselves as ridden with shame, humiliation, stigma and symbolic violence. Drawing from 65 interviews with poor and young people, Aktaş Yamanoğlu concludes that in an attempt to minimize social hierarchies by way of utilizing consumer goods and consumption practices, the poor youth tend to, in effect, reproduce them.

    What is interesting to note is that fact that many a time consumer culture appropriates motifs and style of life from the social fabric of the middle and lower classes, refurbishes and subsequently presents them as coveted icons, fashions and style (e.g. cargo pants, jazz music and punk styles that were all associated with lower social status bearing groups). Street styles have a way of appearing in fashion shows, for they represent authenticity which is valued and treated as a precious commodity. In the words of Polhemus (1994: 8),

    But it is more than the price tag which distinguishes the genuine article from its chic reinterpretation. It is a question of context. And when fashion sticks its metaphorical gilt frame around a leather motorbike jacket …, it transforms an emblem of subcultural identity into something which anyone with enough money can acquire and wear with pride.

    The disjuncture between what was theirs for always and its newly acquired position in consumer culture that alienates the subaltern from it is hard to bear. They feel alienated, deprived and failed, for their's was the first right over all such appropriated elements.

    Marxists developed a strong critique of consumer culture primarily on the ground that it is founded on the exploitation of workers. The protagonists of consumption tend to level off collective and individual anti-consumption sentiment. Consumer culture dismisses the puritanical ideas of austerity, self-restraint, community and nurturance and instead places undue importance on indulgence, individualism and self-interest, all of which are inimical to ‘common good’. Marcuse (1973) mentions that the politics of corporate capitalism and the consumer economy creates strong ties between an individual and commodity form. In his words, ‘The need for possessing, consuming, handling, and constantly renewing the gadgets, devices, instruments, engines, offered to and imposed upon the people, for using these wares even at danger of one's own destruction has become a “biological” need in the sense just defined’ (p. 20).

    Thompson (1971) draws attention to moral economy in the eighteenth century in which people would not seek to make profit out of necessities of others. In times of scarcity, the prices of commodities would remain at a customary level. The transition of moral economy to unregulated market economy was marked by assertion of rights by consumers. The latter brings with it extortionate mechanism that we tend to shrug off for their inconvenience and hardships. The demise of the moral economy is suggested, among others by people's acceptance of an economist interpretation of food riot, ‘as a direct, spasmodic, irrational response to hunger—a picture which itself is a product of a political economy which diminished human reciprocities to the wage-nexus’ (p. 136). Evidently, conflict of values lies at the core of consumer culture and modernity raising the issue of ethics and sustainability. Ethical consumption is acquiring currency across the world, at a great pace in the United States since the last decade or so. Nicki Lisa Cole (in this volume) examines the issue of ethical consumption cantering around ethically branded and certified goods that are popularly picked up for the contemporary values, desires and identities that they embody with an example of coffee. The paper has originated from her sustained study of promise and contradictions of ethical consumption with focus on the case of coffee. She mentions that ethically coded coffee acquires greater meaning for and success with consumers because of widespread awareness of the producers’ struggle. The consumers are projected as saviours of the poor coffee cultivators. Lisa Cole presents a sociologically informed critique of the marketing strategy that appeals to the ethical and moral subjectivities of consumers of coffee. Despite growing awareness, ethical consumption remains confined as an ideology rather than serving as a viable alternative. Elsewhere she writes,

    By foregrounding the image and narrative of the laborer the industry has convinced consumers that they do not need to worry about the laborer. This is a more gripping form of Marx's commodity fetishism (1978), since the relations and real conditions of production remain obscured by ethical coffee. The narrative presented by it masquerades as a removal of the curtain, but in fact, it is the same curtain painted over with an enchanting scene. (Cole, 2011)

    The concern surrounding labour and environmental exploitation gets dampened, mass consumption gathers momentum and global capitalist production and consumption get perpetuated. Sassatelli (2012) argues that political investment of the consumer bringing different facets of the politics of consumption is an important means of ensuring justice. The point that she makes is that while it is futile to expect that distinction and hierarchy of taste can be removed from the domain of critical consumption, this dimension of consumption could well be monitored ‘through a more structural politics of justice at the systemic level’. Affirmation of consumer-driven social charge bears the possibility of sustainability, ethical uprightness and purposive lifestyles that would obviate the fallout(s) of mindless consumption. Consumer sovereignty in the domains of both the market and personal selves needs to rein sheer hedonism with various forms of discipline in a way that search for pleasure is guided and pleasure itself is moderated.

    Roberta Sassatelli (in this volume) contests the notion of consumption as a ‘private’ act. One might say with her that rather than being confined as a private act, consumption is a site of politics and power relationships. She maintains that consumer is then a ‘political subject’ and concentrates on a viewpoint that treats individual consumers as agency for politics of justice. She discusses with precision and fineness the effectiveness of ethical consumption and limits of the market. While consumer society presents the freedom of choice to consumers, the political investment of the consumer needs to be grounded in political dilemmas of consumerism bringing together ‘politics of difference’ referring to choices of consumption as means of social inclusion as also exclusion; ‘politics of normality’ referring to normative view of the consumer (‘normal consumption’ as a social construct which is opposed to socially deviant forms of consumption such as addiction) and ‘politics of effects’ referring to systemic and implicit effects of consumer practices. Production is separated from consumption and politics from market clearing the haze around objects and services that are promoted as commodities available in the market in exchange of money by the advertising industry. This prepares ground for affecting consumer's awareness about and opinion on ethical and environmental issues related with their practice of consumption.


    I am grateful to Professor William Mazzarella for his insightful comments. Usual disclaimer applies.


    1. The ‘India Shining’ slogan was popularized by the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP). The BJP launched its major electoral campaign under the same banner. It did not, however, enable the BJP to win elections in the year 2004. For details of the trajectory and fate of the slogan, see Brosius (2010).

    2. The distinction between ‘necessities’ and ‘luxuries’ is not unique to communist ideology alone. In fact, a large number of puritan ideologies across the world have consolidated similar notions.

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  • About the Editor and Contributors


    Nita Mathur is Professor of Sociology at the Indira Gandhi National Open University, New Delhi, India. She is the author of Cultural Rhythms in Emotions, Narratives and Dance, 2002 and editor of Santhal Worldview, 2001. Her research interests range from arts and lifestyles to emotions across cultures and indigenous vision. Currently she is working in the area of consumer culture, modernity and fashion in India.


    Nicki Lisa Cole is a Visiting Scholar in Sociology at Pomona College in Claremont, California. Her research focuses on the connections between consumerism and inequality in the context of global capitalism. She is currently studying and writing about the brand power and supply chain of Apple, Inc. She is published in the journal Race, Class & Gender, in the volume Censored 2014: Fearless Speech in Fateful Times, and is a contributor to Contexts, Sociological Images, and Pacific Standard. She is the Founder and Head Writer of 21 Century Nomad, a public sociology blog.

    Steve Derné is Professor of Sociology at SUNY, Geneseo. He has received fellowships from the Fulbright programme (1986–1987, 2012), the Rockefeller Foundation (2002), the National Endowment for the Humanities (1997, 2005), and the American Institute of Indian Studies (1991). In five research stints over more than 25 years, he has conducted 31 months of fieldwork in India. His previous books explore family life and emotion in India (Culture in Action, 1995), filmgoing in India (Movies, Masculinity and Modernity, 2000), and cultural, economic and family changes since India's economic liberalization (Globalization on the Ground, 2008). In 2007 and 2011, he (along with Meenu Sharma and Narendra Sethi) conducted over 200 interviews about well-being with a diversity of Indians in Dehradun.

    Mike Featherstone is founding editor of the journal Theory, Culture & Society and the Theory, Culture & Society Book Series. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Body & Society. Author of Consumer Culture and Postmodernism (2nd edition, 2007) and Undoing Culture: Globalization, Postmodernism and Identity (1995). He is also the co-author of Surviving Middle Age (1982). He is the editor of over a dozen of books and author of numerous journal articles and book chapters on social and cultural theory; consumer and global culture; ageing and the body. His books and articles have been translated into 16 languages. He has also spent time as a visiting professor in Barcelona, Geneva, Kyoto, Recife, São Paulo, Singapore, Tokyo and Vancouver.

    Olga Gurova (Ph.D., Cultural Studies) holds the position of the Academy of Finland Research Fellow at the Department of Social Research, the University of Helsinki, Finland. Previously she served as a Docent in Sociology at the National Research University—Higher School of Economics in St. Petersburg (Russia) and was a research fellow at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, USA; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA; and at the Central European University, Budapest, Hungary. She is the author of The Soviet Underwear: Between Ideology and Everyday Life (2008). Her current research interests include consumption, fashion, socialist and post-socialist cultures of consumption.

    Douglas Kellner is George Kneller Chair in the Philosophy of Education at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and is the author of many books on social theory, politics, history and culture, including works on cultural studies such as Media Culture and Media Spectacle. His Guys and Guns Amok: Domestic Terrorism and School Shootings from the Oklahoma City Bombings to the Virginia Tech Massacre won the 2008 AESA award as the best book on education. His book Cinema Wars: Hollywood Film and Politics in the Bush/Cheney Era got published in 2010 and another book Media Spectacle and Insurrection, 2011: From the Arab Uprisings to Occupy Everywhere got published in 2012.

    William Mazzarella is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Chicago. He is the author of Shovelling Smoke: Advertising and Globalization in Contemporary India and Censorium: Cinema and the Open Edge of Mass Publicity.

    Shelly Pandey is presently working as Senior Fellow at Women's Studies and Development Studies, University of Delhi, India. Her doctoral research is from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi on Women Working in Call Centre in India. She is recipient of M.N. Srinivas Memorial Prize 2012 for her paper ‘Private space in public transport: locating gender in Delhi Metro’ published in Economic and Political Weekly. Her research interests include gender, space, globalization and work.

    Robert Rattle is an independent researcher, consultant, author and scholar with interests in sustainable consumption, social determinants of health, health impact assessment, aboriginal well-being, Internet and communication technologies and globalization. He also teaches at the natural resources and social studies departments at Sault College. Through his research and policy, programme and project activities, his primary focus is on the social and cultural contexts of sustainable consumption, lifestyles and provisioning. He is the author of Computing Our Way to Paradise? The Role of Internet and Communication Technologies in Sustainable Consumption and Globalization along with numerous book chapters, journal articles and other publications.

    Marketa Rulikova is currently a visiting assistant professor of sociology at Williams College and has also taught at Bennington College, Keene State College, Charles University, and New York University in Prague. She received her Ph.D. from the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology at the Polish Academy of Sciences. She was awarded a scholarship from the Soros Foundation (1996–2001) and received a fellowship from the International Sociological Association (2001). Her research focuses on global migration, social stratification and cultural transformation in post-socialist Europe. She is currently working on a book about undocumented Eastern European immigrants in the United States, based on a longitudinal ethnographic field study in Chicago.

    Roberta Sassatelli is an Associate Professor of Cultural Sociology at the University of Milan, Italy. She is editor of the Journal Studi Culturali and has published widely on the culture of consumption, cultural theory and the sociology of the body, gender, and sexuality. She is currently researching on how the crisis has impacted the Italian middle classes and their consumption attitudes and practices as well as quality networks in the food sector in Northern Italy. She is completing a monograph on Embodiment, Culture and Gender. Among others, she is the author of Fitness Culture, Gyms and the Commercialization of Discipline and Fun, 2010, and Consumer Culture: History, Theory and Politics, 2007.

    Narendra Sethi is Editor of the Shah Times in Dehradun, India. Being a long-time journalist, he has previously been with cable and print news organizations, including TV 100 and the Dainik Jagaran in Dehradun.

    Meenu Sharma is a lecturer at Divya Drishti Institute of Advanced Studies in Dehradun, India. She has submitted her thesis in education for a doctoral degree to the H.N.B. Garhwal University, Srinagar, Uttarakhand.

    Sanjay Srivastava is Professor of Sociology at the Institute of Economic Growth, New Delhi, India. His research interests include masculinities, consumerism and urban studies. His key publications include Constructing Postcolonial India: National Character and the Doon School, 1998, Asia: Cultural Politics in the Global Age, 2001, co-author, Sexual Sites, Seminal Attitudes: Sexualities, Masculinities and Culture in South Asia, 2004, contributing editor, Passionate Modernity: Sexuality, Class and Consumption in India, 2007, The Sexualities Reader, 2012, contributing editor and Entangled Urbanism: Slum, Gated Community and Shopping Mall in Delhi and Gurgaon.

    Melike Aktaş Yamanoğlu is an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Communication, Ankara University, Ankara, Turkey. She received her MA in Marketing degree from University of Nottingham in 2002 and Ph.D. from Ankara University Institute of Social Sciences in 2008. Her research interests include consumption relationships in modern societies, class distinctions of consumption practices, inequality and social exclusion, media consumption and public relations.

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