Sociology of Consumption: Meaning and Overview

Consumption may often be seen as the purchase and use of goods and services, however, when we talk about consumption in the social context it is much more than just the purchase and use of products. Consumption is at all times related to one’s identity, social status and a part of one’s daily life which will determine where one stands in the society. This aspect of consumption of the study of the sociology of consumption, looking more at how the goods and services, their purchase and their consumption becomes a part of the daily life. They study the meaning that consumption of various kinds of goods entails, how it decides one’s social standing.

Study of consumption can be traced back to the works of Karl Marx who has spoken about ‘commodity fetishism suggestion that there is a social relation in consumption involved which is not the relationship between the people in the society, or the buyer and seller, rather it is the relation between the money and commodity in the market system and how they are exchanged. And the works of Max Weber, he talks about the idea of a ‘status symbol’. This term denotes that the social position of an individual in the society is determined by the kinds of goods and services they purchase, typically who purchase more goods of luxury tend to have a higher economic status than maybe those who are more likely to purchase goods only to meet their basic requirements.

Moreover, the study of the sociology of consumption includes the study of trends such as consumerism, this is the consumption that is done in order to satisfy oneself which, it’s an ideology that encourages the consumption of goods and services, in increasing amounts. Consumerism is an important outcome of a capitalist society, as there is mass production in this kind of society and thus the consumer culture will grow.

Along with this it also becomes important to understand the role that is played by cultural capital in the process of consumption, cultural capital here is specific to have the economic resources to acquire certain goods by the virtue of which one is able to climb up the social ladder and have a high social position. This is the position that Weber has spoken about while talking about the ‘status symbol’, this position is perceived based on one’s consumption patterns e.g. if there is the latest model of the iPhone that has come into the market, we know that an I phone is desired by many, moreover it is an expensive phone, so we automatically assume that those buying this phone are more likely to belong to the higher classes of the society.

Thus the sociology of consumption makes it possible to study much more than just how one consumes, it allows us to look at the ideology behind consumption, how certain goods are made only for certain people in the society and moreover, how certain sections of the society purchase certain goods as they are a part of a particular group, being a part of such a group becomes a part of their social identity. The consumption of goods also entails the position one holds in society. Determining their status.


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