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Consumer Culture And Identity Essay

2282 words - 10 pages

Fonseca (2008) defines Consumer culture as a process that “represents a condition in which consumption is seen as having the role of increasingly mediating certain aspects of social relations and consumption has the symbolic ability to represent affiliation to a certain group and its lifestyles, as well as to generate a sense of identity.” The mention of identity in Fonseca’s definition brings about an understanding of the impact consumer culture can have on social agents, and not just on the economic or capitalism that comes with consumption.

This essay will discuss the relationship between Consumer culture and Identity. The essay is divided into five parts; the first ...view middle of the document...

This definition by Taylor is used in marketing literatures and provides a definition that can be used in the context of this essay. Another good definition is that culture cannot be generic as it is; learnt through social interactions and encounters that are transmitted through generations and it is shared by members of a specific society (Hofstede, 1991). The birthplace according to McKendrick, Brewer and Plumb (1982) of consumer culture can be traced back to England, while McCracken (1998) argues that consumer culture is part of a larger transformation in the west that started since the sixteenth century.

Slater (1997: 8) defines Consumer Culture as “a social arrangement in which the relation between lived culture and social resource, between meaningful ways of life and symbolic and material resources on which they depend, is mediated through markets.” The market where consumption occurs has grown to have a big influence in the economy of the society. Baudrillard (1998) defines it as an economy that its value is no longer as relevant in material satisfaction, rather the sign value of goods take priority.
Consumer culture is not the only way of consumption and everyday reproduction but it is the dominant way as explained by Slater (1997: 8-9). Consumption of goods take place in daily routines, from the moment one wakes up till the moment we go back to sleep. For example; when we wake up we begin consumption by brushing our teeth with tooth paste, and changing into our nightwear for bed at night. Sassatelli states that (2007:3) “our daily life is typically organized as alternating between time/space of work and time/space of consumption.
The idea of consumer culture is said to have originated in the fashion world and gradually moved into all parts of social life (Simmel 1997; Featherstone 1991). This process is said to have been pushed and triggered by marketers and advertisers (Packard 1957; Ewen 1976; William 1982). When marketers and advertisers put out their messages the consumer does not just give out money for every product they come in contact with, rather the consumer reflects on what his or her needs and desire are before concluding a purchase. These needs and desire are influenced by both culture and personality, and the needs later become wants and with purchase turn into demands (Cleveland and Laroche, 2007). Kutucuoglu et al (2013) summarise the basic characteristics of consumer culture as the “transformation of needs to desires, utilitarian/hedonic needs-values, commodity fetishism, conspicuous leisure and consumption, cultural values, aestheticization, alienation, differentiation and speed.”
Introduction to Identity
The word “identity” is an ambiguous term that is used to mean different things in different contexts. The oxford dictionary definition of identity is “the fact of being who or what a person or thing is”. For example this definition cannot be used in a context of race, as one cannot choose what race he or she...

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