SO4B9 Half Unit
The Sociology of Consumption
This information is for the 2021/22 session.
Dr Rebecca Elliott STC S211
This course is available on the MSc in Culture and Society, MSc in Economy and Society and MSc in Sociology. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.
This course has a limited number of places (it is controlled access). Places are allocated based on a written statement. Priority will be given to students on the MSc in Culture and Society, MSc in Economy and Society and MSc in Sociology. This may mean that not all students who apply will be able to get a place on this course.
Why do we want the things we want and what do those things say about us? How does consumption reflect and reproduce differences and inequalities of various kinds? What are the social origins of market demand? How did consumption-centred cultures develop and what are their ecological consequences? What does it mean for consumption to be ‘sustainable’ or ‘ethical’?
This course offers a sociological engagement with consumption. It begins from the premise that while we may think of ourselves as individual consumers, how we use resources, our taste for particular goods, and our everyday consumption habits and practices are socially derived and socially structured in profound ways. Issues related to consumption are situated at the intersections of economic, cultural, and environmental sociology and the course will draw on theory and empirical research from all three subfields.
Topics covered in the course include: the social origins of taste; the rise of consumerism; collective consumption and energy use; commoditization and the social biography of things; and consuming online.
25 hours of seminars in the MT.
Teaching arrangements may be adjusted if online teaching is required at any point.
Reading Weeks: Students on this course will have a reading week in MT Week 6, in line with departmental policy.
Students will be expected to produce 1 essay in the MT.
1500 word formative essay due in week 10 of MT.
- Besbris, Max. 2020. Upsold.
- Bourdieu, Pierre. 1984. Distinction.
- Bourdieu, Pierre. 2005. Social Structures of the Economy.
- Brand, Ulrich and Markus Wissen. 2021. The Imperial Mode of Living: Everyday Life and the Ecological Crisis of Capitalism. Verso.
- Cairns, Karen, Josee Johnston and Nora MacKendrick. 2013. “Feeding the ‘Organic Child’: Mothering through Ethical Consumption.” Journal of Consumer Culture 13(2): 97–118.
- De Grazia, V. (ed.) (1996). The Sex of Things: Gender and Consumption in Historical Perspective. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
- Kopytoff, Igor. 1986. “The Cultural Biography of Things: Commoditization as Process.” Pp. 64-91 in Arjun Appadurai (ed.) The Social Life of Things.
- Marx, Karl. 1867. “The Fetishism of Commodities and The Secret Thereof.” In Capital, Volume I.
- Schor, Juliet. 2010. Plenitude.
- Skotnicki, Tad. 2021. The Sympathetic Consumer. Stanford University Press.
- Veblein, Thorstein. 1899. The Theory of the Leisure Class.
- Warde, Alan. 2005. “Consumption and Theories of Practice.” Journal of Consumer Culture 5(2): 131–53.
- Wherry, Frederick. 2006. “The social sources of authenticity in global handicraft markets: Evidence from northern Thailand.” Journal of Consumer Culture 6 (1), 5-32.
- Zukin, Sharon, Scarlett Lindeman, and Laurie Hurson. 2016. “The Omnivore’s Neighborhood? Online Restaurant Reviews, Race, and Gentrification.” Journal of Consumer Culture 17(3): 459-479.
Essay (90%, 3000 words) in the LT.
Group presentation (10%) in the MT.
An electronic copy of the assessed essay, to be uploaded to Moodle, no later than 4.00pm on the third Thursday of Lent Term.
Attendance at all seminars, completion of set readings and submission of set coursework is required.
Course selection videos
Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.
Important information in response to COVID-19
Please note that during 2021/22 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.
Total students 2020/21: Unavailable
Average class size 2020/21: Unavailable
Controlled access 2020/21: No
Value: Half Unit
Personal development skills
- Team working
- Problem solving
- Application of information skills