This chapter uses case studies to highlight the consequences of being unable to consume, the increased isolation experienced by many families and individuals, and how this affects social work. It concludes with an examination of how social work itself has become an enterprise based on consumption, arguing that for many people choice is but an illusion.
These case studies represent many areas social workers deal with (see also the case studies in Chapter Six). Consumption and the consumer society are relatively new developments, as demonstrated in Chapter Seven. It is, however, important that social workers make some attempt to understand how they affect the lives of people they work with. Readers are invited to return to the exercise in Chapter Seven to reassess the extent to which consumption plays a part in their life. It may be that it plays a far bigger role than at first thought.
This chapter will also show that the concepts of production and consumption are closely related, and the areas discussed lead to a consideration of the extent to which contemporary society has shifted to consumption and whether production still plays a significant role.
Chapter Seven developed the ideas of Bauman in relation to the ‘new poor’. His argument is that they are the flawed consumers of a postmodern or postproduction world, and as such serve little purpose, as their traditional position as a reserve army of cheap, casualised labour has been eroded (Bauman, 1998). This view of the poor in relation to consumption is not without its critics.
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