Relationship Between Consumption and Identity

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Relationship Between Consumption and Identity

In traditional societies, people's identity was rooted in a set of social roles and values, which provided orientation and religious sanctions to define ones place in the world.

In modernity, identity is often characterised in terms of mutual recognition, as if ones identity depended on recognition from others combined with self- validation of this recognition. Identity still comes from a pre set of roles and norms. For example, a mother or a catholic, identities are still limited and fixed, though I believe the boundaries of possible new identities are continually expanding.

Current research suggests some theorists believe identity as something essential, substantial, fixed and essentially invariable. Yet other modern theorists consider the creation of identity as existential for each individual, using the personal responsibilities for ones own actions which create ones own moral values. Identity in modernity is associated to individuality to developing a uniquely individual self.

In my own research I have come to believe that in the consumer and media societies, identity has been increasingly linked to style, to producing an image, to how one looks. To have an identity people must develop their own look, style and image.

From this I want to argue that the world of consumption has a great influence on the way people create their identities. I shall explore important features of the nature and function of fashion, as it’s relevance offers models and materials for constructing identity. I then want to further my argument on whether consumption is seen as a passive process reflecting producer interests or an active process representing consumer interests, as this can determine how ones identity, or lack of, is perceived.

The consumption of products and services is important for the way in which it functions to mark social differences and act as a communicator, but it also gives satisfaction. Style, status and group identification are aspects of identity value. People choose to display commodities or engage in different spheres of consumption in an attempt to express their identity in a certain sort of image. A clear example to demonstrate a way in which someone may communicate their identity is the football supporter. When referring to picture 1, by simply wearing a Manchester United shirt, a...

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...s’ rather than ‘consumers’. We should consume on our own terms and thus learn to define our own desires instead of merely accepting the choice that the market offers us.

Rather than symptomatic of a ‘lack;’, I believe desire can in fact be a natural, positive energy – desire is production. As Guattari once observed , “we will only become revolutionary when we bring into play our ‘unconscious investments’ - when we reach the point where desire and machine become indistinguishable, where desire and contrivance are the same thing”(4).

The conclusion I have made is that people consume products to reinforce their position in life. They use these products to reflect their beliefs, status, lifestyle, likes and dislikes, incorporating external factors. For example, climate, religion and age. This reinforces their need to be individuals as well as belonging to a wider group.

Many people become victims of consumerism, often aspiring to unrealistic heights or being unable to sustain the financial implications of passive consumerism. The difference between essential consumerism and euphoric consumerism is a very fine line that can be easily crossed over if control is not maintained.

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