SOC317H5 Lecture Notes - Lecture 5: Starbucks, Mcdonaldization

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11 Feb 2016
Slide: Coffee, more than a warm drink…
The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no
decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy
one cup of coffee. Short. Tall. Light. Dark. Caf. Decaf. Low-Fat. Non-
fat. Etc. So for people who don’t know what the hell they’re doing, or
who on earth they are, they can, for $2.95, get not just a cup of
coffee, but an absolute defining sense of self. -Tom Hanks in You’ve
Got Mail.
that’s really the theme this week
Slide: Question of the day
What is your go-to beverage in the morning?
What is the thing you drink most days of the week?
Slide: Outline
1. Consumption and social class: Key concepts
we’ve looked at these a little bit
2. Coffee consumption and social class
which was the theme of the main article to read for this week
3. The paradox of the $4 cappuccino
mentioned in the organic consumers association article, relating to the
paradox of expensive coffee
Slide: Coffee & taste
we often think about taste as individual, natural and biologically driven
we’re looking at Taste is a social phenomenon
it is a socially constructed and reconstructed through the practices we
engage in
e.g consuming coffee, frequenting certain coffee shops
through that, reinforce certain aspects of our tastes
This is spoken about a lot in the Bookman article
one of the main argument of the course
Slide: Part I. Consumption: A way to signal class identities to ourselves
and others
we’ve been discussing this in class, this idea between how we mark
boundaries between ourselves and others in terms of class through our
consumption and our preferences
consumption is used s a way to signal class identity to ourselves and the
people around us
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we mark boundaries between us and others through our preferences
just like we saw with the burgers last week
as we saw last week for e.g, different versions of a hamburger could signal
different things relationship
$1.50 or so for cheap burger
35 for gourmet burger
Slide: Conspicuous Consumption
as we’ve seen with veblen, this concept of conspicuous consumption, the idea
that the showiness of consumption is a signal to others of our class
identity is really what he’s getting at
the fact that we want to outwardly demonstrate our consumption is what
Veblen is getting at
show our consumption in a way that is seen is what he’s getting at
“the consumption of …excellent goods is an evidence of wealth, it
becomes honorific; and conversely, the failure to consume in due
quantity and quality becomes a mark of inferiority and demerit” –
Thorstein Veblen
conspicuous consumption and its relationship to class Can trigger an
expenditure cascade
that’s the idea that wealthier consumers are emulated by those below
them in the socio-economic ladder and that trickles down all the
different economic levels
that’s the cascade
Slide: Wealth and consumption: a complex relationship
the relationship b/t wealth and consumption isn’t always as simple as we think
we often think that the people who have a lot of money are spending
not simple or unidirectional
not true that rich people consume expensively and lavishly all the time
there’s also this idea at the same time that conspicuous consumption can be
replaced by a protestant kind of idea of saving your money and spending
smartly (kinda Veblen idea-protestant)
that complexifies the issue
you can’t just associate wealth and consumption in one way- there are different
ways that it can manifest itself
Spending like the stars…
Penny pinching billionaire
Slide: Pierre Bourdieu
he’s a french sociologist
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we read about him in the coffee reading and he was mentioned before
he’s central to the study of cultural sociology
some of his most important work involves understanding precisely the role of
taste and culture in reproducing class inequalities
Bourdieu gives us 2 important points to further our understanding of
consumption(2 bold points):
Class inequalities are reproduced over time through consumption
what we consume plays a role not only in showcasing our class
boundaries (as something that is just there, but also in maintaining
those boundaries
from discrete events here and there to daily practices that we
engage in that continually remind us and others (and
sometimes its unconscious)
sometimes its happening below the surface
Social elites are typically seen as having ‘good taste’
this means that what is know as legitimate taste is usually defined by the
social elite
what we refer to as good taste is defined by these people
Slide: Types of capital
a key notion that we were introduced to this work is from Bourdieu’s work- this
idea of capital
he defines 3 main kinds of capital
1. Economic capital
this is the more obvious type of capital
money, financial goods, economic means
2. Social capital
our social relationships
our networks
“it’s who you know”
e.g someone fixed you up with a job
3.Cultural capital
this is the one we’re going to explore in more detail today
cultural capital has diff forms
embodied (e.g., taste)
its part of us, its an attitude, a disposition to the world, a way of
being in the world
taste is a form of embodied cultural capital
e.g disposition to liking fine wine
or you’re at dinners, and you constantly pick wines that someone
else can recognize as quality wines- showing your
preference for “higher things”
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