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Consumption, Mass Consumption, and Consumer Culture

Russell W. Belk

Subject Cultural Studies
Sociology » Consumption, Sociological and Social Theory

People Frankfurt School

Key-Topics capitalism

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


Consumption, mass consumption, and consumer culture are a growing focus in contemporary life as well as in social science theory and research. Daniel Miller (1995) even suggests that consumption is replacing kinship as the central theme in anthropology. Consumption is the most basic of these concepts, but not the least contentious. From the Latin consumere , to take up, consumption means to acquire. But other meanings include using up, burning, wasting, and decaying. In the first case consumption adds; in the others it subtracts. In current practice, the term may refer either to using an object or to both acquiring and using it. In the broader usage, consumption also includes such supporting activities as attending advertising, shopping retail displays, interacting with salespeople, engaging in word of mouth, and searching online for a good or service. This more common view holds that consumption consists of activities potentially leading to and actually following from the acquisition of a good or service by those engaging in such activities . Tangible goods can be acquired and stored for future consumption, but most services, including surgery, stage plays, and haircuts, must be acquired and used simultaneously. The prototype of current consumption involves searching for, purchasing, and subsequently using a branded product. But we can also acquire goods and services by receiving ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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