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Chapter 10: Addictive, Impulsive and Other Counter-normative Consumption
10 Addictive, impulsive and other counternormative consumption Don Ross 10.1 INTRODUCTION Popular discussion of consumption behaviour is rich with normative associations around patterns taken to be reckless and/or pathological. A partial list of such putative pathologies includes addictive consumption, extremely risky consumption, immoral consumption, hoarding, and compulsive/obsessive consumption. In this chapter, I will organize these normative ideas according to the conceptual framework of standard (meaning neoclassical and Austrian) economics. (For an accessible, historically structured, survey see Backhouse 2002.) This framework differs in various respects from alternatives that might be favoured by psychologists, psychiatrists or philosophers. I choose the economic conceptualization here not because I insist that it is necessarily best for all purposes, but because it has the advantage of forcing us to discipline accounts of consumption that is taken to be normatively deviant by reference to the logic of consumption in general. That is, one begins from a broad but precise idea of consumption, and then addresses special features of some consumption patterns that are normatively controversial and often discouraged by public policy. Contrary to widespread caricatures (e.g., Ormerod 1997, Keen 2002) the logical framework of standard economics is extremely flexible and empirically open, and so allows psychological, neuroscientific and philosophical themes to be visited without restriction. The chapter is structured as follows. In the second section I present and explain the technical idea of ‘consumption’ as used in economics. The point of this is to allow us to talk precisely about counter-normative consumption as a particular kind of...
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