A Social and Economic Theory of Consumption by Kaj Illomen

By Kaj Illomen

Kaj Ilmonen used to be a pioneer within the 3rd wave of the sociology of intake. This book provides a balanced review of the sociology of intake, arguing that the keenness of 'the 3rd wave' exaggerated the function of the symbolic and imaginary on the price of the materiality of human societies.

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Indd 31 11/3/2010 1:38:35 AM A Social and Economic Theory of Consumption himself with representations of economics. These appear in a position of duplication. Not only do they reflect economic reality, but they also impact the way that the economy works (Foucault 1970, 353–354). They contribute to producing reality by influencing economic policy and business decision-making (see Smart 2003, 5). The discipline of economics and the economy are so closely related that it is ‘meaningless to distinguish between an existing reality (economy) and the analytical discourse explaining it (economics).

Bush, for instance, has imposed protective duties to support American manufacturing and agriculture, at the same time as he has been calling for the liberalization of global markets. And in the European Union, old members are now taking steps to prevent people from new member states moving out in search of work, despite the formal rhetoric of the free movement of labour. Karl Polanyi (1957, 132) has accurately observed that the market economy is characterized by a double movement. The currently predominant trend of movement is the economic policy line aimed at establishing self-regulating markets.

In the national accounts it is reflected in consumer demand, for individual citizens it is reflected in the relationship between incomes and commodity prices. However, there can be no demand for commodities unless they are perceived by consumers as objects of their needs, as use values. The use value of a commodity, whether real or imaginary, can only be harnessed to the consumer’s purposes after exchange has taken place. It follows that use value is not an economic category in the first place, but it attaches consumption to civil society – its everyday activities and varied social microspace.

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