Presentation on theme: "American Culture: Consumer Culture"— Presentation transcript:
1 American Culture: Consumer Culture Lecture FourAmerican Culture: Consumer Culture
2 What is Culture? Culture is the lens through which we see the world Gives shape and meaning to our daily livesCulture is a social process – we create and recreate cultureCulture is shared, learned, taken for granted, symbolic, and it varies across time and place
3 Material and Non-material Culture Material Culture (or material goods)The material objects we create are usually the first indicators of cultural differencesNon-material cultureBeliefs – the truth of it allValues – the right and wrongNorms – the rulesRituals – practice and reaffirmationLanguage – the heart of it all
4 US Dominant Culture: Consumer Culture The dominant culture in American society today is the consumer cultureA consumer culture in one in which we define ourselves and our value in society in terms of goods we purchaseConsumer culture both unifies us and differentiates us from one another
5 The Ritual of ShoppingIn a consumer society consumption is a process by which we reflect our values, beliefs, and norms.Shopping today has become a cultural ritual that reinforces our beliefs and values
6 Overspent AmericanMax Weber argues that our actions and behavior – like work and consumption – are guided in part by what we believe and value (culture).Film Questions:According to Juliet Schor, what is consumption competition?According to Schor, what are the cultural forces that cause Americans to work longer hours and spend more than they can afford in order to participate in a consumption competition with others?
7 Overspent AmericanIn the book Overspent American sociologist Juliet Schor found that in a consumer culture – where our social value is determined by the goods we consume – we are participating in consumption competitionWe work more to make more money to be able to spend more money on “stuff”And increasingly we go into debt to buy more stuff
8 Consumption Competition Consumption Competition: the process by which we consume goods to demonstrate our status to othersSchor says in consumption competition we focus on visible goods and primarily what she calls the “Big Three”:The house we live inThe car we driveThe clothes we wear
9 Symbols of Consumer Culture Brands act as symbols of social status in consumption competitionIf you look around you on any given day you can see how ubiquitous brands have become in our society – they are on everything and everywhereResearch has shown that brands are powerful reflectors of latent functions
10 Our Consumption, Our Values If we are consuming goods today to gain and reflect social status in society today, what values & beliefs are reflected in our consumption of material culture?
11 Socialized into a Consumer Culture Socialization: the lifelong process of social interaction through which individuals acquire self identity and the social skills needed for survival in societySocialization is central to society, without learning the culture of a society we could not get along in that societyHowever, when we act based on our cultural ideas, values, and beliefs we recreate that society
12 Mass Media and Socialization There are many agents of socialization in our society today –family, school, peer groups – but one of the most powerful socializing agents today is the mass media and, more specifically, advertisingWe live in an “advertising environment”Ads occupy a vast cultural space in our lives and are present in virtually all social contexts from the labels visible on our clothes to the ads on TV
13 Role of Mass MediaMass Media plays a central role in the consumer cultureIncreases the symbolic value of “Brands” through advertising that associates latent functions with brandsStretches our reference groups, whereby we feel we are competing with the people on TV (TV shows like “MTV Cribs” is a good example) and not just our neighborsHow much influence does mass media have?Adults see an average of 2000 advertisements a dayChildren see an average of 40,000 commercials a yearWe use 6.5 hours of mass media a day
14 Advertisements and Socialization The goal of advertising is to sell products and one of the ways advertising does this is to associate latent functions with the products advertisedOften ads tell us we lack something the is socially valued, but we can have it we buy the product advertised
15 Conspicuous Consumption According to the sociologist Thorstein Veblen in his book The Theory of the Leisure Class “conspicuous consumption is…a heightening or reaffirmation of social status.”In other words, the choices regarding the goods we consume are related to how those goods will heighten our status in societyProducts that are visible to others are the ones that we tend to buy with latent functions in mind
16 The Functions of Consumption In a consumer society consumption has both manifest and latent functionsA manifest function is an intended or expressed outcomeThe manifest function of goods is the intended purposeA latent function is an unintended or unexpressed outcomeThe latent function of goods is the one that gains meaning only in the social context and social interaction
17 Let’s look at some products and think about the manifest and latent functions…
18 Cadillac Escalade SUVWhat are the Manifest and Latent Functions?
19 Chanel LipstickWhat are the Manifest and Latent Functions?
20 Apple iPodWhat are the Manifest and Latent Functions?
22 Your Ads For each ad you picked, answer the following questions: What is the manifest function of the product advertised?What is the latent function associated with the product in the ad?What reference group is the ad appealing to?Do you think the ad focuses more on the latent or manifest function?
23 Are We Prisoners of Socialization? Socialization is powerful, but we have a ‘self’We are unique individuals and we are actively involved in the construction our own identitiesWe can examine and find common cultural message about what it means to be valued in American society, but as individuals we can (and do) chose to accept or reject those cultural ideasThis is how cultural change happens – we recreate culture when we start to redefine our values, beliefs, and normsSociety shapes individuals…but we also shape society
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