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The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Consumption and Consumer Studies by J. Michael Ryan, Daniel Thomas Cook

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Consumption in India

NITA MATHUR

Indira Gandhi National Open University, India

DOI: 10.1002/9781118989463.wbeccs066

Consumption studies in India are of particular salience because of the peculiar juxtapositioning of traditional values emphasizing frugality, voluntary poverty, and sense of community with the practice of consumption emphasizing, among others, lavishness, ostentation, and individuation. A niche is carved out in which traditional values and the practices of consumption get mutually constituted. Many of the moralistic concerns of consumption are based on scriptural injunctions that lie deep in people's psyche, and to a large extent influence their decisions and/or choices. Nearly all the main religions in the country press for altruism, sharing, benevolence, and abstemiousness – which are antithetical to the very grain of consumption. Gandhi (1910) reiterated that it is necessary to control one's indulgences. He came down heavily on the ideology promoting sovereignty of money over human spirit, and maintained that the compulsive need to expand the vast captive market lay at the root of colonial domination in India. It is often argued that the fancy products that dominate the market space project an illusion of prosperity which camouflages the reality that large sections of the population are living under conditions of poverty and deprivation.

The economic reforms of the 1990s, which lifted restraints on foreign trade in a phased manner, marked a watershed and pronounced ...

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