What could be more important to contemporary consumer culture than the search for happiness? It seems obvious that attempting to accumulate consumer items that carry with them significant symbolic power is driven forward by the desire to “find happiness,” to discover success, contentment, satisfaction. However, the critical literature on consumer culture that has grown rapidly in recent years appears to indicate that happiness is not the necessary by-product of consumerism and that dissatisfaction and waste are often the end point of the consumer cycle.

While consumerism is often seen as highly exploitative, alienating, environmentally destructive, and culturally corrosive, the myth of consumer happiness remains a popular notion. Some of the liberal accounts of consumerism that developed during the 1960s and 1970s highlighted innovative subcultural creativity and ...

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