Student Notes

In this chapter we explore the sociological significance of ‘stuff’; what we wear, own and use, and ask how we are to make sense of it. Because it is all around us, it is sometimes difficult to see it for what it is: it, above all, says who we are.

In particular, we will:

  • ask why consumerism is a central feature of modern capitalism.
  • argue that ‘taste’ is culturally and socially produced such that production and consumption are part of the same process.
  • examine the argument that what we buy is the brand rather than the object itself.
  • explore the view that ‘stuff’ is in fact culture rather than simply its expression.
  • locate ‘stuff’ in the wider global economy in examining ‘fast’ and ‘slow’ fashions.

Having read the chapter, you will understand better that:

  • consumerism is the central feature of contemporary capitalism, and more to the point, it is a belief-system, an ‘ism’.
  • the production and consumption of stuff are inextricably linked, that almost everything has its price.
  • erecting warehouses of stuff locks into life-style choices, that shopping becomes an end in itself rather than simply a means to keeping ourselves provisioned.
  • stuff is ‘us’ in the first place, rather than being an externalisation of our needs and desires.
  • our consumption of stuff has direct implications for people around the world, that our consumption practices have deep implications for people’s ways of life.