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Consumer Culture and Society

Consumer Culture and Society

July 2016 | 272 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc

The author is a proud sponsor of the 2020 SAGE Keith Roberts Teaching Innovations Award—enabling graduate students and early career faculty to attend the annual ASA pre-conference teaching and learning workshop.

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. 

Foreword and Acknowledgments
About the Author
Chapter 1. Introduction: Historical Context and Theoretical Tensions
Historical Context

Positioning the Concept of Consumption: Tensions and Contradictions

Organization of the Book

Chapter 2. Objects of Consumption: Commodities and Mass Consumer Society
The Production of Commodities

The Value of Commodities

The Meaning of Commodities

Obsolescence and Waste

The Commoditization of Everything?


Chapter 3. Subjects of Consumption: Passive Dupes or Active Agents?
Emulation, Distinction, or Rebellion?

Passive Dupes?

Utility or Hedonism?


Chapter 4. The Places and Spaces of Consumption
The City, Arcades, and Department Stores

Shopping Malls and Big-Box Stores

Wal-Mart: Killing the Category Killers? and E-Commerce

The Privatization of Public Space


Chapter 5. Food
Food as an Object of Consumption

Food and the Subjects of Consumption

Food and the Places of Consumption


Chapter 6. Tourism
Tourism and the Objects of Consumption

Tourism and the Subjects of Consumption

Tourism and the Places of Consumption


Chapter 7. Higher Education
Higher Education as a Place of Consumption

Higher Education as an Object of Consumption

Higher Education and the Subjects of Consumption


Chapter 8. Political Consumerism and the Consumer Movement
Political Consumerism: A Brief History

The Consumer Movement

Political Consumerism: A New Era


Chapter 9. Credit and Debt
Liberalization of Financial Markets and the Credit Industry

Debtor-Creditor Relationships

Debt Forgiveness and Relief


Chapter 10. Alternative Forms of Consumption
Frugality, Sacrifice, Austerity, and Postmaterialism

The Voluntary Simplicity Movement

Do-It-Yourself Movement

Local Currency Movement

Consumer Cooperatives

Collaborative Consumption and the Sharing Economy

Co-Creation, Presumers, and Prosumption: Free Consumer Labor

Reduce, Reuse, and Dematerialism


Chapter 11. Conclusion: The Globalization of Mass Consumer Culture
Globalization and Localization

China: Global Brands and Belonging

India: Nationalism and Resistance


Key features


  • The opening chapter gives a historical and conceptual context to consumption, documenting the rise of mass consumption in modern society and summarizing recent theoretical and empirical work on the importance of consumption and consumers.
  • Part I establishes a conceptual framework for the book, discussing the objects and subjects of consumption and the public and private spaces where consumption takes place.
  • Part II provides case studies of consumption in three familiar domains of social life: food, tourism, and higher education.
  • Part III addresses ethical concerns and consumer activism, such as boycotts, the morality of debt, and the voluntary simplicity movement.
  • The book concludes by exploring the globalization of consumer culture in general and specifically the rise of consumerism in China and India.
  • Each chapter features a box that includes a brief synopsis of a relevant issue or topic connected to the chapter's content and three discussion and/or application questions. 

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 3

Chapter 9

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