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Consuming Life

ISBN: 978-0-7456-3979-6
168 pages
April 2007, Polity
Consuming Life (0745639798) cover image
With the advent of liquid modernity, the society of producers is transformed into a society of consumers. In this new consumer society, individuals become simultaneously the promoters of commodities and the commodities they promote. They are, at one and the same time, the merchandise and the marketer, the goods and the travelling salespeople. They all inhabit the same social space that is customarily described by the term the market.

The test they need to pass in order to acquire the social prizes they covet requires them to recast themselves as products capable of drawing attention to themselves. This subtle and pervasive transformation of consumers into commodities is the most important feature of the society of consumers. It is the hidden truth, the deepest and most closely guarded secret, of the consumer society in which we now live.

In this new book Zygmunt Bauman examines the impact of consumerist attitudes and patterns of conduct on various apparently unconnected aspects of social life politics and democracy, social divisions and stratification, communities and partnerships, identity building, the production and use of knowledge, and value preferences.

The invasion and colonization of the web of human relations by the worldviews and behavioural patterns inspired and shaped by commodity markets, and the sources of resentment, dissent and occasional resistance to the occupying forces, are the central themes of this brilliant new book by one of the worlds most original and insightful social thinkers.

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Introduction
Or, the most closely guarded secret of the society of consumers 1

1 Consumerism versus Consumption 25

2 Society of Consumers 52

3 Consumerist Culture 82

4 Collateral Casualties of Consumerism 117

Notes 151

Index 158

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Z. Bauman, Professor Emeritus, Universities of Leeds and Warsaw
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  • New book by one of the foremost social thinkers of our time
  • Examines modern consumer culture in light of Bauman’s influential theories of liquid modernity and is full of contemporary examples throughout
  • Written in a typically engaging style, this book illustrates the transformation of consumers themselves into commodities
  • Explores the impact of consumerist attitudes and patterns of conduct on various aspects of social life - politics and democracy, social divisions and stratification, communities and partnerships, and identity building
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"[An] engaged and important antidote to the platitudes of the times ... encourages the very human virtues [Bauman seeks] to recover from a world otherwise only concerned with the easy, the simple and the fast."
Times Higher Education

"A masterful account and critique of consumerism and the social consequences of its ubiquity ... another worthy contribution to the urgent task of social critique amid unprecedented and unfettered consumerism."
Sociology

"A timely intervention in helping sociologists think about what the sociology of consumption has achieved."
Sociological Review

"Consuming Life provides a fiery, stimulating and sharp diagnosis, with much to tell us about where and who we are in a market-led society."
Commentary

"Bauman's message calls for awakening from the slumber we are in."
Essays in Philosophy

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