- Series: Midland Book
- Paperback: 192 pages
- Publisher: Indiana University Press (November 22, 1990)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0253206286
- ISBN-13: 978-0253206282
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #511,331 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Culture and Consumption: New Approaches to the Symbolic Character of Consumer Goods and Activities (Midland Book)
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"This book compiles and integrates highly innovative work aimed at bridging the fields of anthropology and consumer behavior." - Journal of Consumer Affairs " ... fascinating ... ambitious and interesting ... " - Canadian Advertising Foundation Newsletter " ... an anthropological dig into consumerism brimming with original thought ... " - The Globe and Mail "Grant McCracken has written a provocative book that puts consumerism in its place in Western society- at the centre." - Report on Business Magazine " ... a stimulating addition to knowledge and theory about the interrelationship of culture and consumption." - Choice "[McCracken's] synthesis of anthropological and consumer studies material will give historians new ideas and methods to integrate into their thinking." - Maryland Historian "The book offers a fresh and much needed cultural interpretation of consumption." - Journal of Consumer Policy "The volume will help balance the prevailing cognitive and social psychological cast of consumer research and should stimulate more comprehensive investigation into consumer behavior." - Journal of Marketing Research " ... broad scope, enthusiasm and imagination ... a significant contribution to the literature on consumption history, consumer behavior, and American material culture." - Winterhur Portfolio "For this is a superb book, a definitive exploration of its subject that makes use of the full range of available literature." - American Journal of Sociology "McCracken's book is a fine synthesis of a new current of thought that strives to create an interdisciplinary social science of consumption behaviors, a current to which folklorists have much to contribute." - Journal of American Folklore
About the Author
Grant McCracken is a member of The MIT Laboratory for Branding Cultures and a visiting scholar at McGill University and author of several books.
Top customer reviews
Recall the last time you presented a gift to someone. Was it really a gift for them, or did you only give the gift so that the recipient would assume the symbolic properties of the item, and therefore become more like the person you would like them to be? How about your last major purchase-was it a replacement for something that no longer fits your standards, now that your standards no longer fit your past purchases? An individual would be hard pressed to come up with, let alone answer questions like these without serious thought and reflection, yet these and many others come to mind while reading "Culture and Consumption" by Grant McCracken.
Mr. McCracken beckons us to question ourselves, our motives, and the whole rationale behind what we are doing when we make a purchase in the marketplace, whether it is for ourselves or someone else. While popular opinion and social scientific study purport that materialism is one of the things that is most wrong with our society, the author shows that the goods that are so often identified as the unhappy, destructive preoccupation of a materialistic society are in fact one of the chief instruments of its survival-one of the ways in which its order is created and maintained.
While Mary Ellen Roach and others like her declared that yes, man likes to control things, Mr. McCracken goes many steps forward. He disregards and even insults former theorists on consumption in an attempt to reverse the gears of thinking on modern consumption practices. Accordingly, clothing is not language. In fact, clothing is "quite unlike language and best communicates cultural meaning when it departs from the syntagmatic principle on which language operates." Also, the popular trickle down theory of diffusion is actually "an upward "chase and flight" pattern created by a subordinate group that "hunts" upper class status makers and a superordinate social group that moves on in a hasty flight to new ones." Quite modestly, the author admits that his work "begins the rapprochement. It does not pretend to accomplish it."
Mr. McCracken demonstrates that all the other theories about consumption are wrong or at least flawed. He questions them, and then points the way to a new understanding of how and why we are consumers. By his decree, our culture follows very distinct consumption patterns. With his review of the history of consumption to the present day, the author shows a consistent and lineal progression to the mass misunderstanding of today's marketplace. According to him, culture and consumption are inextricably intertwined, and he has attempted to unweave the elements of this intimate rapport for our perusal.
He casts doubt upon our forefathers with startling clarity. What is reality to us-something we sometimes feel developed in complicated, pretentious ways-is in fact only the direct result of our revolutionary, rebellious founding. Mr. McCracken demands that we reevaluate and reconstruct the history of Western Civilization. All that we were, all that we are, and all that we strive to be is dictated to us by our consumption patterns. While one would hope for free will and liberty under democracy, in reality we are slaves to consumption.
While our consumption once freed us from our past, it now entraps us and dictates our futures. What the author terms the Diderot effect sums this up nicely. Basically it states that when one takes the cultural meaning of a new good as the carrier of privileged meaning, they are forced to make all the rest of their possessions consistent with it. To fail in this capacity would make our semblance inaccurate and inconsistent. With that Rolex you had better buy a BMW. To house that BMW you had better buy a condo on the beach. To fill that condo you had better buy Ethan Allen furniture. To sit on that furniture you had better get a Shar-Pei. To pet that Shar-Pei you had better get a gorgeous and wealthy spouse. When you're through with these "common" luxuries, you better collect Rembrandts, Van Goghs, and Picassos until your lust for the obscure is satiated. By that time you'll be dead and you can leave your compulsive obsessions to your children so that they can continue the warped tradition of bridging their ways to the ever elusive displaced meaning-that gap between the real and ideal in social life-like moths to a flame.
These points deserve to be more than noted. Throughout history, anthropologists have chosen to study the supply side of the Industrial Revolution. Mr. McCracken offers a most refreshing viewpoint of the demand side of the equation. With unique insight, Mr. McCracken uses clothing as a prototypical item of contemporary culture and shows us how it has shaped and dominated our lives. Throughout this collection of essays, he tears down the old order of consumption theory and constructs a new one-one that has never seen the light of day.
For anyone ready to face the marketplace through marketing or advertising, and begin the long overdue look at how and why we consume, there could not be a more congenial conversationalist than Mr. McCracken.