Consumer Culture: History, Theory and Politics


Roberta Sassatelli

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  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
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  • Part I: The Rise of Consumer Culture

    Part II: Theories of Consumer Agency

    Part III: The Politics of Consumption

  • Copyright

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    Because I have learned so much from the friends and colleagues with whom I have exchanged views and experiences about consumption, history, politics and cultural theory in the last decade or so, I cannot imagine a better way to start this book than by thanking them for consuming their time and eyes on various texts of mine, and above all for their enthusiasm, friendship, and intelligence: thanks to Jeffrey Alexander, Adam Arvidsson, Massimo Baldini, Marina Bianchi, John Brewer, Paolo Capuzzo, Tim Dant, Cristina De Maria, Rossella Ghigi, Monica Greco, Yukka Gronow, Shaun Hargreaves Heap, Antoine Hennion, Sandro Mezzadra, Massimo Montanari, Jonathan Morris, Kate Nash, Alessandro Pizzorno, Marco Santoro, Alan Scott, Don Slater, Davide Sparti, Frank Trentmann, Alan Warde, Rick Wilk and to the late Paolo Donati. Most of these friends and colleagues have read early drafts, chapters or parts of this book and offered precious suggestions and comments. To present one's own work in progress is often an exciting and inspiring experience and I am grateful to the following institutions for inviting me to give papers on consumer culture: the History and European Civilization Department at the European University Institute, Florence, the Department of History at Warwick University, the Centre for Nordic Alcohol Studies at Helsinki, the Philosophy and Social Theory Workshop at the University of Exeter, the Department of Sociology at Lancaster University, the Department of Sociology at the University of Cork, the Istituto Gramsci of Rome, the Humanities and Social Sciences Department at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, the Social Studies Department at the University of Helsinki. As I have been teaching consumption for a decade, my thoughts have partly taken shape as I attempted to get sharper for my students, both in Italy and the UK: both their enthusiasm and doubts have been constant sources of inspiration, for which I thank them all. Last but not least, I am grateful to Jasper Chalcraft for his graceful help with the intricacies of my second language, Mila Steele and Katherine Haw at Sage for their supportive editorial and production assistance and Chris Rojek for his inspiring appreciation of my work. The book is dedicated to Marco and Riccardo, with deep love.

  • Epilogue: Consumers, Consumer Culture(s) and the Practices of Consumption

    This book has set itself an ambitious goal: offering a critical view of the phenomena gathered under the aegis of consumption, a view which both gives the practices of getting and using goods their due and sets them in wider social and economic, cultural and political contexts. To a large extent, to talk about consumer culture today is to talk about modernity or late modernity. Such an epochal reading has helped to establish consumption as a legitimate and important field of enquiry. Yet, if it remains at an abstract level, an engagement with modernity may jeopardize our capacity to read consumption in everyday life.

    To be sure, consumer culture is constantly used as a hybrid concept, referring sometimes exclusively to advertising and the commercialization of goods, sometimes to the web of practices which make up everyday consumption. Just as well, the notion of consumption covers different meanings – from purchase, to use, to waste – which are equally inscribed in ordinary language and expert discourse. Finally, people are described as consumers because they buy and use, store and maintain, manage and fantasize commodities, yet we rarely ask ourselves to what extent people actually conceive themselves as consumers while they perform these assorted activities. Awareness of these issues should sensitize us to the multiplicity of meanings, images, practices, institutions and identities which fill in the arena of consumption. We all consume, but we all do it differently, and certainly we think of it differently. While conventionally we speak of ‘consumer culture’ in the singular, there are a variety of different, situated, institutionalized consumer cultures in the plural. Likewise, while we speak of ‘consumer choice’ in the singular, there are multiple, often conflicting reasons for choosing goods, as well as a variety of ways of both representing the ‘consumer’ and claiming such a role for oneself.

    This should not mean that we ought to throw away notions such as consumer culture or the consumer. Yes, they are indeed both imprecise and analytically wanting. Still, they are used in everyday life and public discourse, and increasingly so. They are, as it were, key elements of ‘folk language’ in contemporary culture whose wide currency is partly due to the fact that they are greatly contested and go right to the heart of our ways of being and living together. They are called forth by market actors to sell goods as well as being deployed by social and political actors to mobilize people towards more collective ends. Analytical clarification within scholarly language should thus be pursued by problematizing these notions with reference to historically and socially situated processes of cultural classification and representation.

    Consumer culture is made of both individual and collective actors, commodities and institutions, representations and actual patterns of actions. For consumption as for other social arenas, we may say with Foucault (1980) that ‘nothing happens exactly as forecast’, even though it happens within a determined field of possibilities and through cultural repertoires, whose anticipated rewards and losses contribute to structure. Being themselves the result of situated practices assembled in specific contexts (advertising cultures, consumerist groups, commercial spaces, etc.), representations reflect, to varying degrees, the consumer practices they are meant to portray or call forth, and the consumer identities they wish to mobilize. Still, as repertoires for mutual understanding and justification, images and discourses cannot be reduced to patterns of actions. Hirschman (1977) has taught us that not all the elements of a historical transformation coincide perfectly: there is always a gap between discourse and intentions, intended and unintended effects. Awareness of this potential gap helps account for the dynamics through which certain themes emerged and became hegemonic throughout history: that is how power and history shape the conditions for mutual understanding. It allows us to address the contested nature of representation, considering people in different institutional positions and their different capacities to fix powerful images of consumption in the public domain. It also draws our attention to the elusive and multiform nature of the interlocking of representations and actual events. People may use certain goods and readily embrace the encoded commercial images, such as when they perform gender identities using goods in accordance with commercial scripts of more or less hegemonic masculinity or femininity. People may also use goods in oppositional ways, such as when the mainstream is turned upside down in sub-cultural styles; or they may make use of goods out of necessity and with a degree of distance, such as when the poor half-willing recur to welfare provision trying to shut themselves off its disciplinary effects. People may also find themselves using goods which are encoded through meanings contradictory to actual events, such as when working women do not have time to cook but prefer pre-cooked food coded through traditional images of femininity; or they may be unable to carry out the actions which a variety of unused items help them fantasize, such as when time-pressured businessmen purchase expensive camping equipment which will be used only to dream of more leisured styles of fatherhood. The disarticulation in time and space of production, exchange and consumption probably helps widen the gap between patterns of actions and representations, thus making commodity circuits contested and contradictory, but also dynamic and creative, arenas.

    While they may be presented as neutral and objective, processes of cultural classification and representation always entail some measure of moralization. As cultural analysts we better leave moral criticism to the philosophers. Yet we can and indeed should scrutinize very closely the ways in which commodities are considered superior or inferior, consumers' actions are deemed appropriate and legitimate or inappropriate and deviant, consumers themselves are portrayed as moral beings or as depraved souls. Certainly, there is ample evidence that, no matter how much markets try to shut themselves off from other spheres of life, they are, to quote Polanyi (1957), ‘embedded’ in social networks. Likewise, we witness daily the extent to which the instrumental picture of the consumer is institutionally reinforced, and frankly hegemonic, in a number of key institutional contexts. Much more research is needed on how these competing views of the consumer and consumption are promoted by institutional actors and are being mixed and mingled in daily practices, taking on a distinctive moral character which accounts for much of their compelling force. Consumer culture is constituted as a culture both for consumers and of consumers: both a set of commodities for people to consume and a set of representations of people as consumers. Just as the notion of consumer sovereignty has worked as a normative claim which helped construct the market as specialized sphere of action, so the current political framing of consumers, which builds on and mobilizes their capacity to resist market disentanglement, constructs an ideal image of the consumer. As shown, the negotiation of the boundaries of the commodity form and the normalization of consumption as premised on visions of the subject-consumer may tell us much of what is cooking in contemporary consumer culture. The seductive charm of the consumer as a free autonomous chooser – whether as a self-interested forward-looking hedonist or a politically engaged responsible actor – is all but gone, yet its many practical renditions and symbolic nuances means that it can be dragged into service for a variety of different pursuits, contributing to the continuous shifting of the repertoires for representing and accomplishing consumer practices.

    As suggested throughout the book, everyday consumption should be seen as a territory neither for the domination of the masses nor for the freedom of the self. While the separation between production and consumption informs much of our thinking, ordinary life and large scale social process are equally based on their combination. Likewise, consumption cannot be seen as either instrumentally rational behaviour or as irrational expressive behaviour. The pleasures and tyrannies of consumption are not islands of indigenous local traditions in a frigid sea of centrally controlled technologies and standardization. All in all, consumption need not be a dichotomous phenomenon; it may involve dichotomy but it also includes other patterns of relations, more complex, nuanced and opaque. Yet, consumption is often understood through dichotomies. To say that images, representations and vocabularies are structured through chains of binary oppositions while reality may not be, does not mean that we have to blind ourselves to the fact that cultural processes do happen through the negotiation, qualification, and challenging of dichotomies. In this sense, while we may be convinced that dichotomies are fallacies of Western thinking, a host of dichotomous oppositions such as public/private, local/global, individualization/mobilization, etc. are productive cultural devices. They are confronted and qualified through meaningful and complex social relations which pervade economic relations, including production, acquisition and the use of goods and services.

    The cultural repertoires for understanding consumption are as rich and varied as the material circumstances in which consumption occurs. An awareness of the diverse material, historical and cultural scripting of consumption may help us consider the specificity of contemporary consumer culture. In particular, through the first part of the book I have shown that goods have always had symbolic value, but they have not always been, nor indeed always are, commodities. Likewise, people have always used and consumed goods, but they have not always been, nor always are, consumers. The commoditization process appears to be enlarging, intermingling with intimate relations. Still, in this book the commodity form has been considered as a hegemonic framing of goods which is not co-extensive with the symbolic values and the material practices through which people consume, and indeed produce and distribute, goods. In particular, as suggested in the second and third parts of the book, through consumption people negotiate in everyday life the symbolic values which have been inscribed in the goods by commercial processes, the identities which are implicit in promotional images, and the very ways of using which are organized by commercial institutions. Following authors such as Simmel, Sahlins, De Certeau and Miller, the book has pursued the idea that consumption is a form of value production which realizes the object as lived culture: it engages with commoditization, works on it and sometimes subverts it. Part of this value production has a routine character and happens without much intended attention to the commodity form; part of it is more reflexively related to the commodity form, such as gift-giving and collecting; finally, part of it, such as recycling or political consumption, tries to redress the commoditization process as we know it. Yet, even the choice of alternative Fairtrade goods or consumers' boycotts is not guaranteed to alter political economic structure or to shape consumption into political action as such.

    In other words, by appropriating goods in everyday life consumers de-commoditize them, but this does not mean that they overturn the commoditization process. We should be wary of an heroic picture of de-commoditization. It is wrong to suppose that consuming Coke in a particular way creates communities, but does not create a new product. Indeed, products exist as culture through the practices which entangle them in lived social relationships. Yet, the economic value of a commodity is, to a degree, independent of the particular meanings which may be given to it, or the specific uses it may be put to in everyday life. To capture such value articulation and the asymmetry between production and consumption, I have looked at consumption through Goffman's (1974) notion of ‘keying’ – a form of re-framing which, like geometrical translation, does not substitute the original framework, but blocks its relevance and systematically transforms it so that participants in the activity may reconstitute what is going on. In this perspective, consumption takes place in institutional contexts which exist as relatively separated fields of practice against the background of commoditization. These fields consolidate around the reception of goods, their de-commoditization and the production of consumers. Fields of practical activities are of the essence: it is fields of practical activity which generate wants, rather than vice versa. Differentiation within such fields is also, at least partly, a function of their internal history and of our involvement in it, rather than being directly determined by larger processes such as the social structure, transferable dispositions, production or commercialization. Following this line of thought, I have proposed that contexts of consumption – from subcultures, to amateur circles, to homes and families, to commercial institutions – are also arenas for the consolidation of consumer capital, namely locally sustained consumer capacities, knowledge and hierarchies. Such a notion, however, does not simply vindicate consumption as a creative pursuit. It may be used to show that the accumulation of consumer capital requires time and resources, and that each instance of consumption competes with other consumption as well as other social activities. It may be deployed to show that consumption contributes to producing and orientating further consumption by providing people with specific abilities, manners and knowledge. It allows us to think that genuine experiences of involvement and pleasure are organized and patterned and that they may be more or less conducive to creativity depending on the organization of context. Therefore, it should also alert us to the fact that contexts of consumption are different. These differences, in turn, shed light on the fact that there may be a gap, and even a trade-off, between internal meanings in terms of satisfaction and creativity and external rewards in terms of status and recognition. Consumer capital may not be easily transferable across fields, as it is evident in the case of sub-cultural capital.

    A similar line of thought can be pursued at the macro level. While they are relatively autonomous from production, consumers' activities may not have the intended effects. There is no simple relation between the consolidation of a specific field or culture of consumption, and its external effects on production and retail. As suggested, volumes of sale do not describe what consumers do, yet they are pretty much what producers are professionally asked to be looking for. Still, rather than being untouched by de-commoditization, the processes of production of economic value need to draw on the active work done by consumers. And just as the effect of production on consumption is mediated through consumer rituals and practices, the effect of consumption on production is mediated through the cultures of the business world. This picture gives rise to countless questions which have largely to do with how cultures of production, commercialization and consumption interface. Much of what is now going on in scholarship about consumption indeed addresses such questions. It problematizes the reification of the boundary between economy and culture, which the disciplinary specialization of those who study economic processes and those who study cultural processes has sustained.

    The book has pointed out the remarkable richness and diversity of contemporary consumption and the difficulty of accommodating such variety within scholarly research. An excessive emphasis on the differences between consumption and production may exclude from view the patterns of difference among consumers. A focus on the different goods which are used by people of different sorts may blind us to the fact that different people give different meanings to the same goods or that the same people give different meanings to goods according to context. Emphasis on commercial institutions as shaped by standardized scripts of provision may blind us to the fact that they are also sites for the consumption of goods enriched by personal relations. A perspective on commodities as a set of cross-referencing symbols may jeopardize our understanding of consumer cultures as ongoing social networks bringing these goods to life. Emphasis on consumption as performing crucial relational work and on the relatively separated worlds which are sustained through consumption may blind us to the fact that the external rewards for engaging in different consumer activities may vary quite dramatically. To do justice to consumption and its plenitude, I have called for an awareness of its ambivalence and of the power relations through which it unfolds. This is facilitated by an integration of theory and empirical research and recommends a degree of methodological and disciplinary pluralism.

    An apparently simple catch-phrase such as ‘consumer culture’ may be used as a fetish to ignore the contested genealogy of the subject-consumer and the complex economic and cultural processes which underpin consumption. Studies of consumption appear to have reached such maturity as to open up and problematize this notion. Reference to consumer culture can thus be put to use to reveal that in contemporary culture subjects change commodities through consumption, and are likewise changed in the process. This is what my book has attended to, offering a taste of the many trajectories though which cultures of consumption are constituted as ongoing, creative and dynamic fields of power relations.

    Further Reading and Resources

    The reader may find here a selective guide for further reading and resources from the vast scholarship on consumption and consumer cultures in the English language. Full references are given only for works which do not appear in the bibliographic references.

    As consumption is now a consolidated field of study, there are a number of recent edited collections which work well to provide overviews of the theories, themes, disciplines and methodologies available. In particular, Juliet Schor and Douglas Holt (eds) The Consumer Society Reader (New York: The New York Press, 2000) gathers together key contemporary contributions to the field and includes chapters from the classics on consumer culture (Veblen, Simmel, Adorno, Bourdieu, Baudrillard, etc). Daniel Miller's monumental four volumes of Consumption: Critical Concepts in the Social Sciences (ed. London: Routledge, 2001) provide an exhaustive interdisciplinary overview, ranging from classic theoretical discussion within sociology to recent empirical studies coming from different disciplines.

    In varying proportions, a measure of interdisciplinarity is a feature of much contemporary writing on consumption. For a fundamental interdisciplinary collection, covering consumer behaviour studies, sociology, political economy, social psychology, anthropology and communication studies, the reader may refer to Daniel Miller's Acknowledging Consumption (ed., 1995). Consumers, a marketing textbook and reader edited by Eric Arnould, Linda Pince and George Zinkhan (2002) provides a wide ranging and critical introduction to marketing scholarship sensitive to the debates in the social sciences and humanities. The Consumption Reader edited by geographers David B. Clarke, Marcus A. Doel and Kate M. L. Housinaux (London: Routledge, 2003) furnishes an updated overview which approaches issues of places and spatiality. For economics, especially political economy and critical economics, a useful collection has been edited by Neva R. Goodwin, Frank Ackerman and David Kiron, The Consumer Society. Frontier Issues in Economic Thought (Washington DC: Island Press, 1996). Situating itself at the crossroads of history, anthropology and marketing, Grant McCracken's (1988) Culture and Consumption is a classic read which provides a perspective on consumer rituals.

    Itself largely interdisciplinary, the material culture tradition is reflected in two recent readers which offer a critical survey of the field: The Material Culture Reader edited by Victor Buchli (London: Berg, 2002) and the Handbook ofMaterial Culture edited by Chris Tilley, Webb Keane, Susanne Kuechler, Mike Rowlands and Patricia Spyer (London: Routledge, 2005). Victor Buchli's three-volume set on Material Culture (London: Routlege, 2004) supplies a broad overview of the studies and approaches within this perspective. A fundamental read is Appadurai's influential collection The Social Life of Things (1986) which bridges anthropology and history in the study of global commodity flows. The reader should also refer to Miller's (1987) Material Culture and Mass Consumption, which provides a theoretical discussion of material culture and an influential perspective on consumption as appropriation. A useful text, more grounded in sociology, is Tim Dant's (1999) Material Culture and the Social World. Coming from a social psychological perspective Helga Dittmar's (1992) The Social Psychology of Material Possession may also be useful to chart the relationship between people and objects in contemporary cultures.

    There are a number of other important volumes which collect detailed studies of consumer cultures across time, nations and markets. John Brewer and Roy Porter have distinctively contributed to summing up the history of consumption with their edited collection Consumption and the World of Goods (1993). Other useful collections are Bermingham and Brewer's (1995) The Consumption of Culture and Strasser, McGovern and Judd's (1998) Getting and Spending: European and American Consumer Societies in the Twentieth Century. To appreciate the role of both materialistic values and hedonistic ethics in the long-term development of consumer culture, the reader should consult the influential works by two historical sociologists: Chandra Mukerji's (1983) From Graven Images and Colin Campbell's (1987) The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Modern Consumerism. These may be usefully complemented by works on the conceptualization of luxuries through history such as Berry's (1994) The Idea of Luxury; on moral attitudes towards consumption such as Williams's (1982) Dream Worlds and Horowitz's (1985) The Morality of Spending. For the rise of market culture, its many manifestations across time and space, and its working the reader may also refer to Carrier's (ed. 1997) Meanings of the Market and Bevir and Trentmann's (eds, 2004) Markets in Historical Contexts. A theoretical discussion of markets sensitive to history may be found in The Laws of the Market, an important collection of essays edited by Michel Callon (1998) and in Don Slater and Fran Tonkiss's (2001) Market Society (Cambridge: Polity Press).

    Consumer cultures are sites for the consolidation of social and cultural boundaries. The classic works by Pierre Bourdieu (1984), Distinction, and Mary Douglas and Baron Isherwood (1979) The World of Goods are a must here. There are a number of recent collections and contributions which chart the creative interplay between social differences and consumption across time and space. An entry into gender and consumption is provided by J. Scanlon (ed.) The Gender and Consumer Culture Reader (New York: New York University Press, 2002) and by The Sex of Things, an influential collection of historical works on gender edited by Victoria de Grazia and Elizabeth Furlough (1996). For class differences the reader may refer to the special issue of International Labour and Working-Class History on ‘Class and Consumption’ edited by De Grazia and Cohen (1999) and to the still useful sociological outlook provided by Burrows and Marsh (1992) Consumption and Class. Arlene Davila's (2001) Latinos Inc. and Marilyn Halter's (2000) Shopping for Identity offer a perspective on ethnicity and marketing/advertising and Elizabeth Pleck's (2000) Celebrating the Family provides a theoretically informed study of ethnicity, family rituals and consumption. Consumption also works as a catalyst for social groups and in particular for sub-cultural groups. On sub-cultures and consumption, the reader may refer to Paul Willis' (1978) classic study of motorbikers and hippies and to Club Cultures, an important study by Sarah Thornton (1995). More broadly on popular culture and consumption the reader may find useful material in Popular Culture: Production and Consumption, a recent collection edited by C. Lee Harrington and D.D. Bielby (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000).

    The private sphere, the family and intimate relationships are also important sites of consumption and labour where emotions and economic rationality intermingle. For families, the market and intimate relationships see Arlie Russel Hochschild (2003) The Commercialization of Intimate Life and Viviana Zelizer (2004) The Purchase of Intimacy. The management of domestic environments often entails routine, inconspicuous and ordinary consumption: see the second volume of The Practice of Everyday Life on living and cooking by Michel De Certeau, Luce Giard and Paul Mayo (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998) as well as Elizabeth Shove's (2003) Comfort, Cleanliness and Convenience which focuses on the routinized normality of consumption in the home by addressing personal cleanliness, domestic laundering and air conditioning. For a broader perspective on the routine aspect of consumption, both within and without the domestic sphere, see the collection on Ordinary Consumption edited by Yukka Gronow and Alan Warde (2001).

    In the literature on consumer culture there is a growing awareness that consumption and production should be seen as interrelated spheres of actions. For a cultural studies perspective on such interplay the reader may refer to the important volume edited by Paul du Gay et al. (1997) Doing Cultural Studies. For political economy, Ben Fine's (2002) The World of Consumption provides an outline and application of the ‘system of provision’ approach. Cultural industries and cultural intermediaries play a key role in the interaction between production and consumption. In particular, for advertising the reader may refer to Buy this Book, a collection of essays edited by Mica Nava et al. (1997) while Thomas Frank's (1997) The Conquest of Cool offers a telling case study of the interplay between business culture and counterculture in America. For fashion, a useful compilation of contributions is supplied by J. Ash and E. Wilson, (eds) Chic Thrills: A Fashion Reader (London: Pandora Press, 1992) while Diana Crane's (2000) Fashion and its Social Agenda proposes an institutional look at the fashion world sensitive to gender issues.

    A visible and institutionally consolidated phenomenon, shopping is much studied within both the humanities and the social sciences. Important recent studies include Erika Rappaport's (2000) Shopping for Pleasure on women and shopping in 18th century London; Rachel Bowlby's (2000) Carried Away which bridges literature, history and cultural studies; Sharon Zukin's (2004) Point of Purchase which offers an empirically grounded sociological perspective on contemporary American shopping cultures; and Pasi Falk and Colin Campbell's (1997) The Shopping Experience, which provides a useful collection of sociological studies with a more European perspective. The reader may also refer to Miller's (1998) A Theory of Shopping, which proposes an elaborate theoretical argument for reading shopping as a ritual.

    Issues of globalization and localization have been addressed though the lenses of consumer culture. George Ritzer's (1993) The McDonaldization of Society contains the original formulation of the McDonaldization thesis and Victoria De Grazia's Irresistible Empire (2005) offers a perspective on the hegemony exercised by American culture through consumption. Arjun Appadurai's (1996) Modernity at Large and Nestor García Canclini's (2001) Consumers and Citizens put forward strong arguments for the key role of local cultures in elaborating notions of hybridization and creolization. A few collections, such as David Howes's (1996) Cross-cultural Consumption and Daniel Miller's (ed. 1995) Worlds Apart offer further detailed studies on cross-cultural consumption while the collection edited by Jonathan Zeitlin and Gary Herrigel (2000) Americanization and its Limits provides essays which nuance the Americanization thesis focusing on the domestication of American technologies and business procedures. Finally, for a recent global topography of consumer culture informed by historical scholarship see John Brewer and Frank Trentmann's (2006) Consuming Cultures, Global Perspectives.

    National cultures and consumption are also important topics. England and Great Britain are probably the most documented. Many studies considered in this book indeed look at this area – from McKendrick et al. 1982, to Warde and Martens 2001, to Zweniniger-Bargielowska 2000, to cite a few. For American consumer culture see Consumer Society in American History: A Reader, ed. Lawrence B. Glickman (Cornell University Press, 1999) and Elizabeth Chin's (2001) Purchasing Power, a recent study of African American kids and their practices of getting and using goods. For consumption in the Asian continent see Beng-Huat's (2000) Consumption in Asia and James Watson's (ed. 1997) Golden Arches East. Tony Bennett, Michael Emmison and John Frow's (1999) Accounting for Tastes provides a useful empirical study of Australian tastes and lifestyles. Adam Arvidsson's (2002) Marketing Modernity and Carol Helstosky's (2004) Garlic and Oil address respectively the development of advertising in Italy and Italian food culture and politics; Tiersten's (2001) Marianne in the Market presents an outline of consumer culture in fin-de-siècle France, whilst Lamant (1992) compares contemporary France and US.

    More recent scholarship has tried to address explicitly the political mobilization of consumers. Elizabeth Cohen's (2003) A Consumers' Republic deals with the politics of consumption in post-war America. Matthew Daunton and Matthew Hilton's (2001) The Politics of Consumption offers a broad historical perspective on the interface between consumers and citizens, while the collection on Politics, Products and Markets edited by Michele Micheletti et al. (2004) includes a variety of contributions on contemporary forms of political consumerism.

    A vast bibliography in English is available at the website of the ‘Cultures of Consumption research programme’ ( Also useful is the annotated bibliography and selected list of websites contained in Douglas Goodman and Mirelle Cohen's Consumer Culture. A Reference Handbook (Oxford: ABC-Clio, 2004). A large bibliography on market cultures and the social science understanding of markets has been provided by Don Slater at the website ‘New Cultures and Economies’ ( The bibliographical essay at the end of De Grazia (2005) offers useful indications as to American politics, consumption and globalization.

    A number of journals are also currently dedicated to the study of consumption from different perspectives: both the Journal of Material Culture, which offers an anthropological angle on the relationship between persons and things, and the Journal of Consumer Culture, which, albeit grounded in sociology, provides an interdisciplinary space for discussion. There are also several marketing journals which offer wide ranging discussion, both empirical and theoretical, of consumption, and in particular the Journal of Consumer Research and Advances in Consumer Research. Finally a number of journals are concerned with consumer policy and education, in particular, Consumer Issues, the International Journal of Consumer Studies and the Journal of Consumers' Affairs.


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