The Economics of Abundance

The Economics of Abundance

Affluent Consumption and the Global Economy

New Directions in Modern Economics series

Brendan Sheehan

This book addresses the challenge posed by J.K. Galbraith over 50 years ago to make a constructive contribution to a different style of economic analysis – the economics of abundance. It identifies a system of abundance inhabited by the ‘people of plenty’ and illustrates that the driver of growth in this system is spending by affluent consumers. This timely book provides essential heterodox economic theory to explain this spending and explore its key drivers and constraints.

Chapter 4: Subjective Consumption

Brendan Sheehan

Subjects: business and management, entrepreneurship, economics and finance, institutional economics


A. INTRODUCTION This chapter seeks to explain subjective consumption. To do so the subjective domain of the human inner space is divided into two broad categories. The first covers the human affective system with its shared characteristics; the second relates to the shared subjective urge to construct, and reconstruct, selfidentity as a work in progress. These two broad categories of the subjective domain provide the essential underpinnings that explain why the people of plenty embark on subjective consumption. There are two broad drivers of subjective consumption; first is generalised affective consumption, and second self-identity consumption. There are also numerous subjective constraints on spending. The constraints are the limits to emotional energy, various negative subjective and inter-subjective states of different intensities and durations, and ascetic senses of self-identity. The institution of marketing seeks to ratchet up subjective consumption by amplifying the two subjective drivers of spending and relaxing, or countering, the various subjective constraints. Subjective consumption complements and extends the analysis of why the people of plenty consume that is contained in Chapter 3. It, however, changes the focus of the analysis. Rather than concentrating on the external – the sociocultural – influences that cause affluent consumers to consume, it analyses the subjective domain of the human inner space. Put another way, this chapter refocuses the analysis to investigate the spending of the people of plenty from the inside-out rather than the outside-in. Chapter 5 completes the analysis of how the human inner space impacts on spending with its coverage of cognitive consumption....

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