Consumption as a Social Process within Social Provisioning and Capitalism: Implications for Heterodox Economics
The article discusses consumption as a social process that is a part of social provisioning and is in an evolutionary interplay with other social processes. The discussion is grounded in, but is not limited to the contributions of Thorstein Veblen. The first section delineates social provisioning as a framework for consumption inquiry. This section emphasizes that social provisioning is a part of collective life process embedded in culture and nature, and that it is comprised by two general sets of activities – those motivated by money and those that are not motivated by making money. The second section delineates features of capitalism as a system, so that it provides a social context for consumption inquiry. The third section formulates a categorization of social processes, one of which is the consumption process. Further, the section delineates the meaning and components of the concepts: social activities, institutions, and habits of life and thought. The fourth section applies these concepts to consumption social process in the specific context of capitalism. The section discusses consumption activities; institutions and systems of provision; and habits of life and thought – illustrating with examples obtained from various disciplines. The section introduces “gated consumption” as an example of a habit of life and thought. It is argued that the formulated analysis transcends the cultural-material dualism. Finally, the article draws implications of the offered analysis, concluding that the category of “consumers” is of little use to heterodox economics.
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