Global Consumer Culture: A Theoretical Discussion Between The Centrality Of Consumption In The Contemporary Society and Its Possible Localizations As a Result Of Cultural Differences

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 9:45 AM
Room: Booth 43
Oral Presentation
Viviane RIEGEL , Sociology Department, Goldsmiths University of London, MD, Brazil
How can we understand the theoretical discussion concerning global consumer culture? Is it possible to affirm that such culture exists as global representation, central to contemporary society? Or should we consider possible localizations of consumption practices as a result of cultural differences from different individuals? Early in modern social theory, consumption has been object of discussion and, with the advent of post-modernist theory, its centrality has become a tonic in social analysis. Further, contemporary studies presented mainly two different perspectives: the centrality of consumption in society or localizations of this practice according to cultural differences. In order to understand global consumer culture, this paper proposes this theoretical discussion between both perspectives:

In the first perspective, there is a rationale that begins with modern social theorists, and their focus on production systems (Marx, Weber, Smith), and that moves to the study of consumption (Simmel, Veblen, De Certeau), whether celebrating or demonizing this practice. Post-modernists have detailed this critique in order to understand the structure of the consumer society (Baudrillard, Bauman, Lipovestky), with consumption as the central practice of contemporary life. This centrality would also explain earlier studies that demonstrate the capillarity of consumption, not disjointed from the production system, but as a continuum that can be translated as prosumption (Ritzer).

The second perspective, present in most contemporary studies of consumption (Bourdieu, Campbell, Featherstone, Miller) has tried to steer a middle course that reconciles pessimistic classical theories with a recognition of the fact that consumption is not only indispensable, but also a domain in which people can express themselves positively in our society. They develop the notion of a consumer culture that refers to norms, values, and meanings associated with a society dominated by consumption. In this culture, there is possibility to localizations and the development of individuals with their respective differences.