Consumer Culture, History of


Università degli Studi di Padova, Italy

DOI: 10.1002/9781118989463.wbeccs055

Although the notion of consumer culture did not emerge in Western culture until after World War II, the historical rise of a recognizable set of cultural values and norms associated with consumption certainly goes back to earlier stages of the modern era. Since the 1990s, the historiography of consumption has emphasized that a specific culture of consumption was the driving force in the process of industrialization in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It has also been argued that earlier forms of consumer culture can be traced further back to the second half of the sixteenth century or even to the Renaissance.

While the acts of buying and using goods in a meaningful social way have no doubt existed since the beginning of civilization, historians of consumption commonly assume that a proper culture of consumption developed only in modern societies as a long-term and progressive process. Consumer culture represented a crucial cultural feature in the development of the modern Western world. Its historical emergence could also be interpreted as the result of a specific social configuration, in which the relationship between the symbolic world and material resources started to be mediated through the market and to assume a central role in socio-cultural reproduction, in the fulfillment of personal needs and the use of material objects (see Slater ...

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