Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2006


Whether it is celebrated as an empowering culture of individualism or mourned as a hollow and unsustainable plea for help, contemporary America’s identity as a consumer society is accepted as a universal fact. As a nation, our spending currently exceeds our means, yet we are by most metrics, among the richest nations on Earth. Clearly, consumption is a central value in our culture, and as such, has been the focus of extensive research, theorization, and discussion over the past century. Consumption, however, is also an extremely complex topic and its pervasiveness in contemporary American society necessarily and inextricably links it to myriad other aspects of culture and scholarship. Consequently, despite its central place—or perhaps because of it—our comprehension of the enormity and richness of consumption remains incomplete and at times controversial. This paper seeks, therefore, to explore only a narrow, but theoretically significant aspect of consumption behavior.