Emotions and Consumption

EVA ILLOUZ

Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel

YAARA BENGER

Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Germany

DOI: 10.1002/9781118989463.wbeccs108

Until the 1960s, the same assumptions that had governed the sphere of production were those that were used to understand the black box of the consumer and of consumption conceived as an economic practice. Consumption was the act of “buying” and it was viewed as a rational utilitarian practice conducted under capitalism's tendency to produce, standardize, and rationalize. In many ways, the field of consumer studies which subsequently developed was nothing but a vast attempt to revise and reject the assumption of a rational actor. Various paradigms – semiotic, postmodern, symbolic, and post-Marxist – all conceived of consumption as a complex cultural practice, imbued with meaning, symbols, and rituals. One of the most effective critiques of the utilitarian paradigm of consumption has been the Bourdieuian notion of “habitus,” which locates consumer choices in “tastes” and systems of preferences that are shaped by class position, which translates in the body and in a matrix of cognitive and preconscious judgments. This theoretical move has contributed much to integrate class and culture in consumer choices, and made these choices expressions of wasteful strategies as conspicuous consumption, distinction, and competitive envy. Yet, if we examine the developments of consumer culture of the last 20 years, the Bourdieuian ...

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