Int. J. of Sustainable Society   »   2008 Vol.1, No.2



Title: Towards a sociology of consumerism


Author: Emily Huddart Kennedy, Naomi Krogman


International Institute for Qualitative Methodology, 6-10, University Terrace, University of Alberta, 8303 112 Street, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2T4, Canada.
Department of Rural Economy, 515 General Services Building, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2T4, Canada


Abstract: Despite concern over the environmental impacts of consumerism, there is a little theoretical coherence into the topic. We present a review of theoretical work from the social sciences to move towards a sociology of consumerism. Few sociological theories address sustainability so we draw from a broad array of literature from Baudrillard (1998) [Baudrillard, J. (1998) The Consumer Society: Myths and Structures. London, UK: Sage] to Veblen (1994) [Veblen, T. (1994) The Theory of the Leisure Class. New York, NY: Dover Publications.]. For instructive purposes, we divide the theories presented into three approaches: structural, individual and social practices. A structural approach considers social norms, built infrastructure and political economic conditions that can exacerbate consumerism. The individual approach focuses on the individual motivations to consume, while the social practices approach integrates both structural and individual perspectives to focus explicitly on how consumerism can result from our daily routines. Ultimately, we argue that social practice theories have the greatest potential to consider lifestyle change toward more sustainable routines.


Keywords: consumerism; individual theories; social practice theories; structural theories; sustainable consumption; sociology; environmental impact; sustainability; lifestyle change; sustainable development.


DOI: 10.1504/IJSSOC.2008.022573


Int. J. of Sustainable Society, 2008 Vol.1, No.2, pp.172 - 189


Available online: 15 Jan 2009



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