As many have noted, with accusatory or disheartened undertones, ours is a society marked by consumption. But what does this ambiguous label mean exactly? The author describes the historical evolution of contemporary consumer culture, the main theories that have attempted to explain consumer behaviour, and the power relationships involved in the use and consumption of goods. The theoretical discussion is complemented by numerous examples concerning youth fashions, gender-based consumption, ethnic cuisine, eating disorders, television, uses of leisure time, health expenditures, and boycotts against major corporations. These digressions reveal the mechanisms by which consumer culture - and its ties to major phenomenon such as trade globalisation, the development of large distribution chains, and the increasing sophistication of advertising - is "negotiated" in everyday life by subjects committed to building their own identity and life-style.
Roberta Sassatelli teaches Consumption and Fashion Sociology at the University of Bologna.
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