Chapter 5: The Making of Place: Consumers and Place-affiliated Brands
Liz Moor INTRODUCTION: CONSUMPTION AS A SPACE OF PROBLEMS If one of the tasks of the social scientist is to sort and state problems (Mills 2000 ), then the sphere of consumption ought to be a particularly fertile area for academic enquiry. Within both public and academic spheres, consumer culture is frequently regarded as problematic terrain – both in its own right and in its relation to issues of value, ethics and labour, to name just a few. As Daniel Miller (1998a) has noted, commentaries on consumption since Marx’s time have often been marked by a fear of ‘object domination’ and a concern that objects, and relations with objects, will supplant people. Such fears, he notes, have frequently been exaggerated, and often lack either historical or anthropological substantiation (see also Trentmann 2009); nonetheless, there is a continuing concern that societies are more ‘consumerist’ than they used to be, and that an exaggerated orientation towards objects – and especially objects accessed via the market – causes alienation, exclusion and feelings of inadequacy or even humiliation, which in turn are dangerous for the polity and the planet (e.g. Bauman 1990, 2007; see also Lury 1996). There are, however, a variety of perspectives on consumption. Anthropologists, for example, have tended to approach it in terms of a more general interest in the uses of material culture and in terms of the extent to which the activities of powerful institutions (whether private or public) are able to limit the ways in which people can use material culture...
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