Coping with Excess
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Coping with Excess

How Organizations, Communities and Individuals Manage Overflows

Edited by Barbara Czarniawska and Orvar Löfgren

What does a stockbroker in Istanbul navigating the rush of incoming trading figures have in common with a mother in Stockholm trying to organize a growing pile of baby clothes? They are both coping with excess or overflow. This book explores the ways in which institutions, corporations and individuals define and manage situations of ‘too much’ – too much information, too many choices, too many commodities or too many tasks.
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Chapter 11: The discovery of relations to artefacts in the boundless process of moving

Karin Ekström


Since the 1950s, progression of the consumer culture (see, for example, Lury, 1996; Slater, 1997; Sassatelli, 2007) has paralleled the development of welfare in Sweden. The number of goods owned by consumers has increased rapidly, as manifested in larger but overflowing wardrobes, houses and garages, and ultimately causing waste problems. Apart from increased welfare, there are socio-cultural reasons for the abundance of goods, one being the fact that consumption during the last decades has become a stronger social marker. Zygmunt Bauman (1998) has argued that consumption has replaced work as a status indicator. The stronger emphasis on symbolic consumption is reflected in consumption for social comparison and for distinction (Bourdieu, 1984; Ekström and Hjort, 2009), although distinction is restricted by social norms, which limits one’s ability to be unique (Ekström, 2007). Another factor influencing the accelerated pace of consumption is the reduced number of working hours and Sweden’s regulated paid holiday (Eriksson, 1999), which has rendered shopping a leisure activity. Attitudes towards consumption and the borrowing of money has also changed over time. Whereas earlier generations saved money to buy things, greater opportunities for borrowing money have resulted in many people borrowing money for the attainment of consumer goods. All these factors have contributed to an abundance of things, particularly visible in Swedish middle-class homes. The overflow of things has also led to an increasing number of secondhand markets and private sales on the Internet (HUI Research, 2012).

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