Consumer Culture and Society offers an introduction to the study of consumerism and mass consumption from a sociological perspective. It examines what we buy, how and where we consume, the meanings attached to the things we purchase, and the social forces that enable and constrain consumer behavior. Opening chapters provide a theoretical overview and history of consumer society and featured case studies look at mass consumption in familiar contexts, such as tourism, food, and higher education. The book explores ethical and political concerns, including consumer activism, indebtedness, alternative forms of consumption, and dilemmas surrounding the globalization of consumer culture.

Objects of Consumption: Commodities and Mass Consumer Society

Chapter 2 objects of consumption: Commodities and mass consumer society

Contemporary consumer society “is characterized by commodities—it is awash with them, it would be impossible to escape them, even if one wanted to” (Fiske 1989:11). Commodities are “part of the physical world that has been defined, classified, and appropriated by humans” (van Binsbergen 2005:45). They are “objects of economic value” and are generally thought of as constituting the material culture of mass consumer societies (Appadurai 1986:3, 5). As such, commodities have the ability to “reflect the whole social organization of capitalism at any historical and geographic point in its development” (Lee 1993:119). Examining how and why particular objects and services become commodities and how commodities change over ...

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