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Chapter 4

Chapter 4 Constructing the Consumer.doc

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Sociology 2172A/B
Gale Cassidy

- Constructing the Consumer - Consumption and Advertising - Introduction - different forms of media are saturated with advertisements designed as simple factual statements, sophisticated narrative developments, or complex symbolic undertones - moreover, social practices and relationships are interwoven with shopping and consumption - Consumption: The Paradoxical Phenomenon - many of our everyday practices are organized around consumption buying groceries, leisure activities, shopping, spending for certain occasions, etc - to a less visible extent, consumption is also integral to policy making sales taxes on luxury items, tobacco, alcohol, etc - consumption is therefore more than style, it broadly includes leisure, arts, sports activities, and industries - consumption can be social, cultural, psychological, economic, political, and historical, depending on which aspect of consumption we address and how we interpret it - commodification of the most personal and serious issues: self-esteem emotions values relationships - All of these things can be commodified, advertised, and sold - consumption also treated in moral terms- reward for hard work or sign of greediness? - The Marxist Perspective on Production and Consumption - taking a Marxist perspective, we start by analyzing consumption from a structural point of view and in terms of class relations - Marx saw the inseparable relations between consumption and production at 3 levels: - Production is also immediately consumption, consumption is also immediately production we consume raw materials in order to produce, and in consuming we subsequently produce things - Production and consumption constitute a mediated relation because of their mutual dependence no matter how production and consumption are directly identified together, they remain distinctive. Production creates the material for consumption, as an external object, while consumption creates the need for production, as an internal object - Each level of consumption and production completes and creates itself as the other, and feeds off the other as an expression of supply and demand - consumption makes production meaningful, and in turn, production validates and creates the specific manner, use, and stimulus of consumption - the inseparable connection between consumption and production at three different levels points out that consumption is not an individual, subjective behaviour detached from greater socioeconomic structural forces - consumption for Marx is not about individual tastes, an expression of individual achievement, or individualism rewarded by material substances - consumption is far from politically neutral once it is only understood in relation to production - consumption perpetuates production, which overrides the use, value, function, or utility of a product for exchange (monetary) value this makes a product a commodity, used for the accumulation of capital - this process in turn alienates the worker from their work and what they create, and makes their commodifies their labour as another thing to be bought and sold - consumption becomes the justifying force behind the need for capitalism to fulfill the unending need for products - it also functions as an ideological apparatus that creates a double false consciousness- the first false consciousness misrecognizes the meanings of commodities - the second false consciousness is created when consumption appears to reward the workers labour, creates the false consciousness that material goods can provide satisfaction - consumption for the worker understood at two levels: - it is productive consumption that turns labour purchased by capital into the process of production - it is individual consumption, an offering to the workers as rewards for their work. However, individual consumption in turn is converted into means of subsistence to ensure the continuation of productive consumption for the capitalist - Horkheimer and Adorno follow Marxs critique on consumption, especially in its mass media form, as the embodiment of propaganda and ideology in maintaining industrial capitalist society - Example: Sweatshops and Consumption - for those who follow the Marxist tradition, the relations between production and consumption are fun
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