Consumption and Identity Essay

Consumption and Identity Essay

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Consumption involves individuals purchasing goods to achieve a meaning or value to the consumer, not simply for the material benefit it offers. Instead, ‘commodities are not just objects of economic exchange, they are goods to think with, goods to speak with’ (Fiske, 1989) (Cited in Bocock, 1993). This suggests that individuals use goods as symbolic props, as a way of creating and moulding their own identities. It is suggested that the individual has the ability to create their own narrative and can rely upon the novelties of consumer goods. However, the individual is still bound by the market and the mass commodities of Capitalism. For example: sports individuals purchase equipment, clothing etc, to encourage the identity they wish to possess. As they see these goods as a connection to their lifestyle.

Many theorists suggest that consumption is correlated to the identity of an individual, that by purchasing goods from the mass market, it enables us to visibly establish our position within society. This differs from previous times in which a range of factors such as family histories, character and personal achievements played a significant role (Gabriel and Lang, 2006). Instead, there is the idea that the consumer has the ability to gain pleasure over objects, not just solely by the manipulation of objects, but through the degree of control over their meaning. The degree of control is developed and achieved through imagination and provides greater possibilities of pleasure experiences. This suggests that modern consumption can be seen as device that enables individuals to ‘dream’ about the desires they wish to fulfill. (Campbell, 1989: 79) (Cited in Gabirel & Lang, 2006)
According to Scitovsky (1976), the desire to consume is ...


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BOURDIEU, P., 1984. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
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