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SOCI 1P80 Lecture Notes - Ecological Footprint, Consumerism, Natural Disaster

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Jane Helleiner

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SOCI 1P80 - Sept 30th, 2011
Pre-quiz extra office hours: Thurs. Oct 6, 11-12 Academic South
No seminars for the week after thanksgiving
Read only pages 160-164 from Chap. 6 for lecture after quiz
Consumption and Exchange
Culture and Consumption:
What is consumption? It is the things we intake and the things we output (waste
products of our consumption). Non-market economies needs can be met by “spending”
time/labour, not cash. Scenario where you can meet your basic needs through labour
which will provide you with what you need without giving money (eg. Pastoralism,
horticulturalism, etc).
Modes of consumption- linked to mode of production. Foraging: minimalism, finite
needs, once you have what you need you stop production.
eg. Vishvajit Pandya Onge worked with foraging people in Indonesia in December 2004.
Foragers had re-established their lives easily, they didn’t require much from the
government, went back to fishing almost immediately.
Industrialism: consumerism, infinite needs, we are encouraged to want more and more.
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, June 2008: Put out a report where they tried to
calculate the ecological footprint by income in Canada. Talked about how the richest
10% of people had an extra 12.4 hectares needed for others. The poorest 10% only
used 5 hectares of land. The Canadian average is 7.6 (3x China and 7x India).
Canadians were the third largest worldwide with the biggest consumption patterns.
Consumption funds: ways of consumption
Basic Needs Funds: food, water, clothing, etc
Recurrent costs fund: additional maintenance and repair needed to keep that going
Entertainment fund: used for leisure activities
ceremonial fund: cost involved in participating in a gathering or ceremonial event
rent and tax fund: give to others a portion of our resources to others to ensure we are
taken care of
Different modes of production: shift in funds. Depending on your culture different funds
will be needed. In a foraging community, the basic needs funds and consumption funds
will be significant.
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eg. Amertya Sen studied consumption inequalities in terms of the idea of entitlements
(culturally defined right to life-sustaining resources). Some of us have stronger
entitlements to the resources we need. Direct entitlements means for example “I own
the land on which I grow the food and materials I need”. In an industrial economy, most
people have indirect entitlements. We need to earn money somewhere to go purchase
resources from others. That vulnerability led him to look at famine as “entitlement
failure”, that people had been unable to ensure their access to life sustaining resources.
Foraging Mode of Production: Everyone has very similar entitlement bundles. Everyone
knows how to gather, hunt, make clothes, etc. Everybody also has a direct link to those
Industrial Mode of Production: Different/unequal entitlement bundles. More indirect
Using these abstract concepts, looking and Sen and his look at famine.
Entitlement at 3 levels:
1. Global
2. National
3. Within households (age and gender based divisions)
Who in the world becomes vulnerable? Who is protected? He would argue there is no
purely “natural” disaster, the effects of natural crisis will have different effects on
different areas, a social suffering.
Taking this basic idea we can look at how class postion, gender, race, ethnicity, age, etc,
can influence:
1. Entitlements (may be deep inequalities along some of these lines)
2. Consumption Patterns (associated with positioning in societies)
P. Bourdieu’s work on “taste” or “style” of class-based consumption: game of distinction.
How do we see this when it comes to basic needs such as food, clothes, water, etc?
-A person who is wealthy may go to an expensive coffee shop and get high quality
coffee, whereas someone poorer may get cheaper coffee.
-Accommodation: begin with apartment, then house, then cottages, then mansions, etc.
-Along with that basic difference is a cultural evaluation that some consumption
represents a tacky, garish view to consumption (eg. American news VS Canadian news:
one is given more value and prestige than the other).
eg. Elizabeth Chin’s interest for her work was children and consumption. Her project
started with looking at the dominant popular notion that in North America consumption is
greedy and/or manipulated, out of control, but...
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