SOC 315(F) Culture, Consumption, and Modernity

How do lifestyles, fashions and trends appear and evolve? Are we authors of our own taste? What structures our choices of goods and activities? What is it that gives meaning to objects and makes them desirable? Are there non-consumer societies in the modern world? How has globalization changed the ways people consume in different parts of the globe? This course will explore the consumption and consumer practices as products of modernity and will analyze the political, cultural and social agendas that have transformed consumption over time. Politics of consumption (the way in which seemingly free and independent consumption choices aggregate into the existing system of global capitalism) will be treated alongside its symbolic element: the role of consumer practices in creating and articulating identities, building relationships and creating solidarities. It will look at money, fashion, advertising, arts, tourism, and shopping in places as varied as nineteenth-century France, socialist Russia, postsocialist Hungary and in contemporary United States, tracing both the mechanisms that structure patterns of consumption, and the implications that these patterns have for the larger social order. Format: seminar. Requirements: full participation, class presentation, annotated bibliography and a major term paper. No prerequisites. Enrollment limit: 19 (expected: 15).