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Shop Until You Drop: The Consumerism Stigma

2714 words - 11 pages

Introduction (1/2 Page)
Whether for good or bad, people consume in order to feel good about them. This might occur through fitting-in, feeling confident, participating in the culture of shopping, or communicating with others. Consumerism has become a universal behaviour amongst most people and groups. According to Sharon Boden, consumption is affected by both external and internal constraints and expectations (150). I argue that consumerism and consumption is no longer an accurate indicator of a person’s actual status and wealth. This takes place with increased accessibility to commodities and experiences. For example, driving a Mercedes-Benz is no longer symbolic of being wealthy or ...view middle of the document...

Foodies, by Baumann and Johnston, discusses how foodie culture falls under the umbrella of both democracy and distinction (Baumann, XV). To borrow a quote of Gary Alan Fine from Foodies “[t]he connection between identity and consumption gives food a central role in the creation of community, and we use our diet to convey images of public identity” (Baumann, 32). Consumerism, Romance and the Wedding Experience by Sharon Boden develops the argument that the 1994 changes to the Marriage Act brought a new representation of weddings as consumed experiences, involving what she refers to as “modern hedonism.” In Orderly Fashion Patrik Aspers discusses the social order in the fashion industry (1). “Order [is] the predictability of human activities and the stability of social components in relation to each other” (Aspers, 7). In Sharon Zukin’s Point of Purchase she examines consumerism through the twentieth century really bringing the arguments of the above-mentioned authors into synthesis (Zukin, 15).

Subtopic: Background / History (I Page)
Inequality between classes is historically rooted in sociological behaviour. Baumann and Johnston describe how amongst foodies, it was only an elite minority who took up the gourmet scene in North America prior to 1960 (Baumann, 5). “Consumption is, as it always has been, a socially embedded and embodied phenomenon” (Boden, 8). Consumerism and consumption has become an aspect of society that contains its own ideology, culture, and identity. The search for distinction is one of the main drivers behind contemporary consumerism and consumption, but people are not actually succeeding at this because due to the increasing accessibility of commodities, luxurious materials and experiences are more commonly sought amongst society. The ubiquitous question in society is “what do you do?” Or, in Pugh’s work “what do your parents do?” People attempt to fulfil specific societal positions in order to fit, which in turn causes a blurred image of one’s actual status and wealth. For instance, the rejection of snobbery; the growing middle class; the ubiquitous search for a bargain; the modernization of roles and etiquette; the amount of choice and rapidity of change in trends; the use of credit or loans; the importance of fitting in; the ability to gain status through knowledge; and the role of the Internet, each illustrate this shift.
In some cases people choose to embody what Pugh refers to as “symbolic indulgence”, while in other cases “symbolic deprivation” is the desired action (Pugh, 9).
It is critical to discuss whether or not one’s social class is indicative of his or her taste and behaviours in relation to consumption. The importance of belonging—referred to as the “economy of dignity”—has been largely responsible for the “commercialization of childhood” (Pugh, 5). Consumption has “profound socio-cultural significance” (Boden, 5). There exists an emphasis on the material obsession of the symbolic...

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