Ethical Dimensions of Consumerism in the United States
Although not every consumer choice is political by default, one has to abandon the notion of consumption as a solely private act without any political implication. In other words, purchase decisions and political choices are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Thus, one will observe a certain complexity in the concept of the ‘citizen consumer,’ which conceptualizes consumption as a way of civic participation. Even though the citizen and the consumer are not incompatible, the merging of both concepts does not reconcile some of the most central, and inherently contradictory, dichotomies of alternative consumption. As a matter of fact, consumption may extend from the private into the public sphere, and thus become a form collective action or behavior instead of an exclusively individual form of action, as soon as it gets a political dimension. But even the most banal consumer choice involves a social component, as discussed in chapter two. As Bourdieu contends, consumer tastes develop within in the particular social context in which an individual is situated. Thus, even though the choice is formulated by the individual consumer and takes shape in their purchase decisions, consumer choice is at the same time greatly influenced by the individuals ‘conditions of existence,’ to borrow Bourdieu’s term. Hence, the individual must not be seen in opposition to society, just as Elias suggested. This especially holds true for postmodernism, wherein the individual is standing at the center of every social relation.
In order to find out to what extent...
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