ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Interrogating Consumer Cultures

Consumer Culture, Modernity and Identity edited by Nita Mathur,New Delhi: Sage, 2014; pp xl + 399, Rs 895.

The gradual waning of the productivist bias in social scientific studies of modern consumption has cleared space, particularly since the early 1990s, for consumer cultural practices to be interpreted as sites of social reproduction. On the one hand, this has meant an examination of the meaningful part played by commodities in the reproduction of everyday life; on the other, it has called for detailed accounts of the conditions that have enabled consumption practices to exercise such profound influence on the making of modern identities (Slater 2005). Precisely because in modern societies “we have no choice but to choose” (Giddens, quoted in Slater 2005: 179), and the field of consumption is the largest arena for this game of compulsory choices, consumer cultures assume great significance for the shaping of modern selves.

The steady dispersal of consumer culture across the world has often required that such questions about identity be considered in the context of transnational discourses of the consuming subject (Zukin and Maguire 2004). While early studies on these issues focused mostly on the homogenising impact of globalisation on peoples and spaces, critics of this position have emphasised that the effects of an increasingly global consumer culture are by no means unvarying. Nita Mathur’s edited volume — Consumer Culture, Modernity and Identity — features 13 essays which respond to this ferment in the literature on consumer cultures.

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