Discourses of Consumption in US-American Culture
This paper explores varieties and examples of discourses of consumption, focusing primarily on US-American cultural discourses. The international community has in recent years developed an extremely valuable body of literature examining strategies for facilitating sustainable consumption; economic ramifications of varying consumption behaviors; attitudes and social structures that encourage or discourage sustainable consumption; approaches to consumption as a component of a sustainable or “green” lifestyle; and considerations of consumption practices in relation to inequities between North and South. The United States has made relatively few contributions to this body of literature thus far. But although the U.S. has not been one of the primary sources of academic literature on sustainable consumption, several types of discourses on consumption have become prominent in U.S. popular culture. These types of discourses include examinations of the moral status of consumption; investigations of the environmental or health consequences of modern consumption behaviors; explorations and critiques of green consumerism; and discourses that either construct or critique the commodification of the nonhuman world to produce objects for consumption. Throughout this paper I outline and offer examples of these strains of popular discourse, drawing on a newly-emerging body of U.S. literature and critically analyzing instances of discourse about sustainable consumption in film, television, internet, and print media. I conclude by examining new perspectives on sustainable coexistence that offer transformative possibilities for establishing relationships with the more-than-human world that are not based primarily on consumption.
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