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Consumer Culture in Classical Social Theory

Social theory has long debated the claim that consumption plays a uniquely central role in modern Western societies. The terms consumer culture and consumer society imply that modern social order can be defined by the place of consumption in both social action and social structure. At the same time, this characterization carries a potent moral and political charge: The labelling of modernity as a consumer culture is generally part of an overall critique, or apologia, for the current state of the social.

Consumption is, of course, essential to any social order: To reproduce themselves as identifiable ways of life and social structures, societies require material and symbolic resources that are used to sustain bodies, interactions, institutions, and organizations (Slater 1997). Hence, ...

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