This article introduces the concept of dialectic icons: public figures who feature in contentious and polarising political discourse. The inflammatory quality of dialectic icons and their role as highly mediated symbols of conflict creates long-lasting emotional energy among audiences, who cluster in ideological camps as a response. However, these audiences can also actively and directly engage in and shape these discourses, particularly through social media. Examples of the public discourse about quarterback-turned-activist Colin Kaepernick’s anthem protests illustrate how the controversiality, newsworthiness, interactivity and visibility of dialectic icons ultimately contribute to social polarisation. By focusing on dialectic icons as proxy battlegrounds for public audiences, this article establishes a useful concept for gaining fresh insights into collective meaning- and truth-making processes.
In January 2023, Anders Rhiger Hansen visited Lund University to talk to Max Koch about sustainable welfare, human needs, social inequality and a little bit about Bourdieu. The message from Max was clear: politicians need to drop the idea of green growth and instead define a safe and just operating space to determine what can be done within this space. His sociological approach combines Marxian and Bourdieusean traditions, and he recommends that the Consumption and Society community investigates consumption in combination with processes of production, for example by engaging with critical political economy approaches such as the French regulation school or the Frankfurt School. According to Koch, the survival of the planet requires holistic approaches that would transform society and its exchanges with nature, based on principles of degrowth and on a scale that we have not yet seen.
Industrially produced mass culture has the reputation of being uniform and monotonous, leaving hardly any room for originality and creativity. In stark contrast to this concept, other theorists of popular culture emphasise the increasing individuality of mass culture made possible by the increasing opulence and leisure time of the working masses followed by the marketing of consumer goods and services. Using the American automotive markets and the Soviet fashion industry as examples, the article addresses the role of fashion in promoting individuality in modern consumer culture questioning both Horkheimer’s and Adorno’s analysis of culture industry and Bourdieu’s analysis of the ‘down-to-earth’ taste of the working class. Critical Theory was right in referring to the culture industry, fashion included, as promoting pseudo-individuation, but not right in downplaying the role of the individual judgement of taste. Bourdieu was right in arguing that the social groups with little cultural and economic capital have hardly any role in challenging the legitimate taste, but not right in arguing that their taste is not an aesthetic taste at all. In analysing the relation between the individual and the social, or the particular and the general, in modern culture, one should pay more attention to the social formation of fashion, operative in consumer goods markets. The reconciliation between the individual and the social that fashion offers is real enough but takes place only provisionally and in a socially conforming manner challenging neither the social formation of fashion nor the general social order of the capitalist, commercial society.
The frequency of video game consumption is a contested topic among scholars. In existing research, the extent of video game use is often related to the terminologies ‘excessive gaming’, ‘video game addiction’ and ‘problem gaming’. Yet the socio-material and practical qualities of gaming in everyday life have received little theoretical and empirical attention in the research on frequent video gaming. By considering these issues this article aims at detaching time spent gaming from a problem framework through a practice theoretical perspective. The empirical data stems from a qualitative study of young Danish adults who are frequently engaged in gaming. The article finds that gaming is constituted by multiple socio-material components that make it highly convenient to consume in everyday life. First, the devices and applications involved in gaming setups conjure mundane, and not focused, engagements with video games. Second, the mobility of gaming enables it to be simultaneously performed with other everyday practicalities such as cooking or commuting. Third, frequent video gaming may occur because the affordances of gaming grant easy access and flexible options for socialising. The convenience of gaming suggests that frequent engagements with video gaming can be viewed as a consequence of how people value their time use.
We are living in a flexitarian age, in which reduced meat eating and vegetarianism are normalising, while simultaneously meat eating is still the norm in Dutch society. A resulting individualisation of diets begs the question whether and how omnivores and veg*ns living together maintain commensality. Based on interviews with 119 young people living in shared households – made up of both veg*ns and omnivores – we investigate how these young adults shape and manage their shared meals. Our results show that veg*ns and meat eaters maintain commensality by, first, using a number of practical strategies that result in meals that are suitable to those different diets, and, second, creating a new norm that defines the diet as an individual choice so as to manage potential conflicts around clashing norms. This results in an active upkeep of tolerance in which veg*nism, meat eating and associated ethical-moral considerations are not discussed. The acceptance of (specifically) vegetarianism, the limited social tensions between meat lovers, meat reducers and meat avoiders, and our finding that people find ways to eat – apart – together, hints at optimism for the future.
This article examines different kinds of consumption desires of Finnish consumers by asking how they would change their consumption habits if they had more money at their disposal. As previous research on consumption desires has been mainly based on the essence of desires and the cycle of fulfilling hedonistic desires and creating new ones, this study analyses the desires in the context of the ages of both consumers and consumer society. The focus was differences in consumption desires between age groups and changes across 20 years. The data were derived from three repeated surveys collected in 1999, 2009 and 2019 in Finland (N = 5,459), which were analysed with principal-axis factor analysis and ANCOVA. The factor analysis extracted three types of consumption desires: hedonistic, charitable-cultural and materialistic. Saving-oriented desires were analysed as a single item. Hedonistic consumption desires were the most typical for the youngest age group (18–25), and materialistic desires were the highest for young adults aged 26–35 across all three years of measurement. Older people had the most charitably and culturally oriented desires in 1999, but older age groups’ orientation to saving and charitable giving and culture decreased across 20 years. Hedonistic consumption desires generally decreased over 20 years, particularly in young age groups. Conversely, young people’s desire to save increased significantly, whereas the oldest age groups saved less. The research shows that both changes in consumer values and economic circumstances are manifested in people’s consumption desires.
Intersectionality is a concept that has received little attention in scholarship on consumption, despite its significant relevance. Marie Plessz and Stefan Wahlen organised a roundtable held at the European Sociological Association (ESA) Consumption research network (RN5) interim meeting, 2 September 2022, in Oslo. This is a summarised and edited transcript of this roundtable discussion. As such, it advances the conceptual lens of intersectionality applied to (food) consumption studies and critically assesses possible future avenues of research that build on existing approaches. It first discusses the role of social and political positions that might be considered intersectionally, to then outline central characteristics as well as empirical strategies when investigating food. This transcript also showcases a possible novel format that is welcomed in the journal Consumption and Society.
This article examines how people’s life course and cultural backgrounds impact their consumption practices, particularly in the use, disposal and treatment of water in bathroom cleaning. We explore this through 12 oral histories from Brazilian and English residents, including locals, migrants and cross-national couples. Our findings provide an account of cleaning routines in two cultural contexts, offering insights for those addressing sustainability, consumer behaviour and water governance. Our research suggests that culture, upbringing, expectations of cleanliness, and social and material contexts all shape how people clean bathrooms, and when contexts change, material elements become particularly influential.