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Can Consumer Citizens Escape the Market? Eric Arnould Petsmart Chair of Retailing & Consumer Sciences University of Arizona Just as medieval society was.

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Presentation on theme: "Can Consumer Citizens Escape the Market? Eric Arnould Petsmart Chair of Retailing & Consumer Sciences University of Arizona Just as medieval society was."— Presentation transcript:

1 Can Consumer Citizens Escape the Market? Eric Arnould Petsmart Chair of Retailing & Consumer Sciences University of Arizona Just as medieval society was balanced on God and the Devil, so ours is balanced on consumption and its denunciation (Baudrillard 1998/1970, 196).

2 Outline The paper interrogates some sociological dimensions of component words of the title in an effort to avoid the most highly ritualized form of the critique of consumer culture. First I review some positions on the notion of consumer action and review some problems critics find in the notion of agency. Second, I discuss the term consumers and propose that the anti-consumption ideology that seems to underlie the overarching question is both class-based and anachronistic. Third, I examine the idea of escape. The dangers of escape are illustrated with an example, but some momentary escapes, before the world is formed are proposed. Fourth, I discuss that notion of the market entailed in the question. The term seems to cover a variety of distinct irritations. Finally, I suggest some implications of all this for the practice of citizenship.

3 Can Can Choice? Possibility of action Sign play & appropriation Détournement & Twist Market fragmentation / de-centering Necessity of reflexive code consciousness

4 Pro-Agency Researchers employ agency or some synonym: –individuals sense of control (Kates 2004, p. 456); –autonomy (Thompson and Haytko 1996, p. 16); –free will (Belk et al 2003, p. 331); –ability to produce culture (Peñaloza 2001, p. 393); –produce producers products (Kozinets et al. 2004, p. 671); and, –transform brands into symbolic markers of cultural categories (Fournier 1998, p. 367).

5 Anti-Agency Differentiation my then take the form of the rejection of objects, the rejection of consumption, and yet this still remains the very ultimate in consumption (Baudrillard 1988/1970, 90) The solution to social contradiction is not equalization but differentiation. No revolution is possible at the level of a code (Baudrillard 1998/1970, 94.)

6 Anti-Agency in order for any entity to be adequately qualified to claim actorhood, it must possess the cultural construction of the capacity and authority to act for itself. All organized human behavior must of necessity operate in terms of culturally constructed blueprints for action and interpretation.

7 Consumers The gap between the fantasy world of consumption day-dreams of perfect pleasure (Kristevas comfort of the perfect mother) and the disappointments of reality is the basic motivation for Campbells (1987) autonomous imaginative hedonism which results in limitless wants and a permanent state of frustration (Elliott 1997).

8 Consumers Who is the referent? Not producers –19 th century echo The people –Object of market manipulation –Behaviorism/ brainwashing The mass market –Error of aggregate data The class other –Object of elite correctives

9 Consumers a full-blow syndrome of anti- consumption, a very modern phenomenon... which is, at bottom, a metaconsumption and acts as a cultural indicator of class. This phenomenon…is a crucial one for the interpretation of our society, since one might be taken in by this formal reversal of signs and mistake what is merely a change in the form of the distance between classes as an effect of democratization. It is on the basis of luxury that the lost simplicity is consumed (Baudrillard 1998/1970, p. 91, emphasis added).

10 Ana-chronicity and spatiality Is a person who employs free-floating firm provided resources to construct an avatar like on-line persona a consumer (Schau and Gilly 2003)? Are those persons who remake and remanufacture firm provided resources, e.g., Apple Newton, Star Trek fan movies, not something other than consumers (Muniz and Schau 2005)? If a person opens a workshop in the rapidly growing Second Life virtual community where she makes and sells claws, paws, and wings and then converts the Linden dollars she earns there into US dollars at the prevailing exchange rate, is she a consumer anymore even if Second Life is a commercial space (The Economist 2006)? If a person willingly transforms him or herself through the acquisition of commercially available technological, biological or biotechnological prostheses is s/he a consumer or a cyborg? (Schroeder 1994; Warwick 2003; Wood 1998). And if the latter, how should we rethink what consumer does on this terrain (Mitchell 2003)? Are those persons who invent markets in abstract financial derivatives and engage in online trading thereof consumers or producers of immateriality, or even social reformers (Miyazaki 2005)?

11 Consumer An essentializing construct An elitist binary: producer vs. consumer an endangered binary: producer- consumer Ontologically suspect

12 Escape even as the market makes its profits, it supplies some of the materials for alternative or oppositional symbolic work (Willis 1990) Consuming romantic utopia

13 Escaping the Market: A Dystopian Example Marginalization Nothing to sell Nothing to buy No resources No control of the agenda, no control of the text. One bad harvest and they are all dead men.

14 Momentary Escapes Agapic and philiac love The gift economy Sacrifice Creative destruction Dionysian frenzies & apocalyptic religious experiences

15 Momentary Escape Communal sensibility favors a proximity centered ethos; that is, simply put a way of being that offers an alternative to both the production and distribution of goods (economic or symbolic) (Maffesoli 1996, 17). …the collective sensibility which arises from the aesthetic form results in an ethical connection (Maffesoli 1996, 18).

16 Anti-Market Advertising, Brands, Electronic media, Marketing research, Marketing formal, Consumers and consumption Marxs fetishism Thoreaus materialism First wave feminist reformers Reactance, Boho anti- conformity, retro- Calvinism, master modern narratives

17 Market: An alternative Marketing capitalism Simmel and Illouz Proper materialism Objectification as a universal Contemporary consumption = negation of alienation Proliferation of objects => generates Maffesolian social worlds Denial of the means of consumption

18 Proper materialism Everything we are and do arises out of the reflection upon ourselves given by the mirror image of the process by which we create form and are created by this same process. We cannot know who we are, or become what we are, expect by looking in a material mirror, which is the historical world created by those who lived before us. Just as there are no pre- objectified forms, no pre- objectified culture, there is no post-objectified transcendence. The passion for immateriality puts even greater pressure upon the precise symbolic and efficacious potential of whatever material forms express transcendent power. Daniel Miller 2005, after Miller 1987 and Hegels Phenomenology of Spirit


20 Market Forms & Social Movements


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