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Consumption and Its Consequences

ISBN: 978-0-7456-6108-7
200 pages
August 2012, Polity
Consumption and Its Consequences (0745661084) cover image
This is a book for those looking for different answers to some of today's most fundamental questions. What is a consumer society? Does being a consumer make us less authentic or more materialistic? How and why do we shop? How should we understand the economy? Is our seemingly insatiable desire for goods destroying the planet? Can we reconcile curbs on consumption with goals such as reducing poverty and social inequality?

Miller responds to these questions by proposing feasible and, where possible, currently available alternatives, drawn mainly from his own original ethnographic research. Here you will find shopping analysed as a technology of love, clothing that sidesteps politics in tackling issues of immigration. There is an alternative theory of value that does not assume the economy is intelligent, scientific, moral or immoral. We see Coca-Cola as an example of localization, not globalization. We learn why the response to climate change will work only when we reverse our assumptions about the impact of consumption on citizens. Given the evidence that consumption is now central to the way we create and maintain our core values and relationships, the conclusions differ dramatically from conventional and accepted views as to its consequences for humanity and the planet.

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Prologue vi

1 What's Wrong with Consumption? 1

2 A Consumer Society 39

3 Why We Shop 64

4 Why Denim? 90

5 It's the Stupid Economy 108

6 How Not to Save a Planet 139

Postscript 182

Notes 186

Index 202

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Daniel Miller is Professor of Material Culture at University College London.
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  • A new book by one of the world’s leading anthropologists and a leading figure in the study of material culture.
  • Brings together Miller’s key writings on consumption, consumer capitalism and related topics.
  • The sequel to Miller’s highly successful Stuff.
  • This book will be of great interest for students and scholars in anthropology, sociology and cultural studies as well as the interested general reader.
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"Makes me wish fervently that it was Miller who was regularly invited to offer critical commentary on materialism, consumerism or climate change policy on BBC Radio 4 and not the usual public intellectuals who do little more than echo received wisdom ... His insights here deserve a wider hearing."
Times Higher Education book of the week

"A profound contribution to debates about the limits, contradictions and alternatives to contemporary styles of living, working and provisioning."
Area

"A tremendously valuable contribution to establishing the understanding of consumption as one of the central interests of contemporary anthropological studies."
Anthropological Notebooks

"There are some curious moments in this book but, at its core, there's a very important observation - people aren't mindless drones who buy whatever the advertising agencies tell them to buy. Sometimes we act that way because we want to keep up with the Joneses but, from time to time, the objects we put in our shopping baskets reflect our ethical and social values and play a part in sustaining our most cherished relationships."
Geographical book of the month

"This engagingly written book addresses some of the central dilemmas of contemporary global society: how to sustain a developed-world, consumerist lifestyle in the face of wrenching economic shifts and accelerating climate change. The topic is urgent, the prescriptions for change coming from academic and policy leaders, paltry. Miller makes the conversation more interesting, more lively, and more honest about the limits of the theoretical perspectives mustered thus far to address these issues."
Bill Maurer, Professor of Anthropology and Law, University of California, Irvine
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