Showing the cultural and institutional processes that have brought the notion of the ‘consumer’ to life, this book guides the reader on a comprehensive journey through the history of how we have come to understand ourselves as consumers in a consumer society and reveals the profound ambiguities and ambivalences inherent within. Rooted in sociology, Roberta Sassatelli also draws on history, anthropology, geography, and economics to give an exemplary introduction to the history and theory of consumer culture.

Needs, Manipulation and Simulation

Needs, manipulation and simulation

The first sociological analyses saw different forms of consumption as social and cultural phenomena, but rarely did they bring into focus the role of the media or of the cultural industry, concentrating instead on fashion as a means of social distinction. When a renewed interest in the processes of consumption appeared after the Second World War, the perspective had totally changed. Calling on the development of the advertising industry the new theoretical approaches underlined the growing disorientation of consumers, who now found themselves afloat amongst thousands of messages trying to sell them products of every kind.

A large part of post-war sociological reflection was aimed at unmasking the manipulative character of the symbolic dimension of goods, and in this ...

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