SOC-1101 Lecture Notes - Lecture 37: Thorstein Veblen, Jean Baudrillard, Consumerism
SchoolUniversity of Winnipeg
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CONSUMERISM AND MATERIAL CULTURE
CONSUMPTION: consists of human and human-induced transformations of
materials and energy. Consumption is environmentally important to the extend
that is makes materials or energy less available for future use, moves a
biophysical system towards a different state or through its effects on those
systems, threatens human health, welfare, or other things people value.
CONSUMERISM: as "the active ideology that the meaning of life is to be found
in buying things and pre-packaged experiences" (Robert Bocock)
THEORIES OF CONSUMERISM
1. THE STRUCTURAL APPROACH
Common to all structural approaches to consumerism is a consideration of the
influence of large social structures:
• Political (such as government)
• And economic (such as corporations and trade organisations)
Increases in consumerism have taken place despite the fact that numerous
studies indicate that overall levels of happiness and wellbeing have failed to
rise with increased wealth beyond a moderate level of income and spending.
THE CONSUMER SOCIETY AND THE SOCIETY OF
Jean Baudrillard: objects function as a "code" of signs rather than simply as
objects of use. The combination of signs and the meanings they take on are
termed a "code"
For example, to be considered a successful worker in most urban settings, you
need a car, credit card and a cell phone.
1. THE INDIVIDUAL APPROACH
Consumption is conspicuous, that is, practiced with the intent of displaying or
conveying one's status (Thorstein Veblen, "The Theory of the Leisure Class"
People may shop to buy clothes, furniture, food to shoe one's sense of style
and ability to be different from others. As one's identity is always evolving and
new products are advertised as fitting for certain personalities and lifestyles,
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