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Paradoxes of Modernist Consumption: Reading Fashions

In: Institutions, Communication and Values

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  • Wilfred Dolfsma

Abstract

It is often lamented by academics and others that contemporary patterns of consumption are ‘post-modern’ (see, for example, Van Raaij 1993). Some perceive of consumption in general as post-modern (Jameson 1988). Its volatility and fickleness is such that it is beyond understanding. I argue that the characterization of contemporary consumption patterns as post-modern is based on an incorrect understanding of these consumption patterns, as well as an incorrect understanding of the term post-modernity. Underlying present-day consumption patterns are broadly supported socio-cultural values that — so the literature on modernism and post-modernism indicates — are thoroughly modernist in nature. Modernist values such as autonomy, novelty, speed, success and uniqueness underlie consumption patterns. In their consumption, people want to express such values. The volatility and fickleness of consumption patterns is, as I will argue in this short chapter, to be explained by reference to the modernist values involved, and in relation to the fact that these modernist values often contradict one another, particularly when expressed in the consumption of concrete objects. The paradoxes that are inherent in modern consumption, particularly as consumption patterns are institutionalized to allow for communication, give rise to the kind of patterns we see today.

Suggested Citation

  • Wilfred Dolfsma, 2009. "Paradoxes of Modernist Consumption: Reading Fashions," Palgrave Macmillan Books, in: Institutions, Communication and Values, chapter 9, pages 113-122, Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Handle: RePEc:pal:palchp:978-0-230-25066-6_9
    DOI: 10.1057/9780230250666_9
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Sheila C. Dow & John Hillard (ed.), 1995. "Keynes, Knowledge And Uncertainty," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 148, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Greg Hannsgen, 2007. "A Random Walk Down Maple Lane? A Critique of Neoclassical Consumption Theory with Reference to Housing Wealth," Review of Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 19(1), pages 1-20.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Consumption Pattern; Concrete Object; Interpretative Community; Consumer Soci; Contemporary Pattern;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • L2 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior
    • M - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics
    • M10 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Administration - - - General

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