Culture and the Media
The Consuming Subject
Gabriel, Y. and Lang, T. (2006). The Unmanageable Consumer. 2nd ed. London: Sage, pp. 78-95 (Chapter 5).

In their engaging and clearly written book, The Unmanageable Consumer, Gabriel and Lang explore the many ways in which we are subjects of a society increasingly dominated by different modes of consumption. In this chapter they examine the impact this has had on our sense of identity.

Further Reading

Belk, R. W (1988). Possessions and the Extended Self. Journal of Consumer Research, 15 (September), pp. 139-68. In this long, well-referenced article Belk explores the idea that we regard our possessions as parts of ourselves.

Buckingham, D. (2008). Introducing Identity In: David Buckingham (ed.), Youth, Identity, and Digital Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp. 1-22. A useful introduction to different approaches to identity, which compliments Gabriel and Lang's discussion.

Clarke, D. B., M. A. Doel, and K. M. L. Housiaux (eds.) (2003). The Consumption Reader. London: Routledge. A selection of key texts on all aspects of consumption within contemporary society.

Desmond, J. (2003). Consuming Behaviour. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Elementary but useful introduction to issues of consumption.

Dunn, R. G. (2008). Identifying Consumption: Subjects and Objects in Consumer Society. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press. An historically informed analysis of how consumption and identity inform one another.

Edwards, T. (2000). Contradictions of Consumption: Concepts, Practices and Politics in Consumer Society. Maidenhead: Open University Press. Discusses various aspects of consumer society, including identity, shopping and social divisions.

Erikson, E. H. (1959). Identity and the Life Cycle: Selected Papers. New York: International Universities Press. Three early papers by Erikson addressing identity development, particularly with regard to childhood and adolescence.

Erikson, E. H. (1994). Identity: Youth and Crisis. London: Norton. Focuses on the "identity crisis" of adolescence.

Erikson, E. H. with Erikson, J. M. (1997). The Life Cycle Completed. Extended ed. London: Norton. Short account of Erikson's eight psychosocial stages of human development.

Falk, P. (1994). The Consuming Body. London: Sage. A sociological approach to the formation of the self by means of consumption, focusing particularly on the body.

Falk, P. and Campbell, C. (1997). The Shopping Experience. London: Sage. A collection of essays focusing on the cultural significance of contemporary shopping.

Firat, A. F. and Dholakia, N. (1998). Consuming People: From Political Economy to Theaters of Consumption. London: Routledge. Questions of consumption in the shift from modernism to postmodernism, though relatively little on identity.

Gabriel, Y. and Lang, T. (2006). The Unmanageable Consumer. 2nd ed. London: Sage. Clear and accessible.

Hebdige, D. (1979). Subculture: The Meaning of Style. London: Methuen, pp. 102-106. This short section discusses bricolage and the construction of subcultural styles and identities.

Hearn, A. (2008). 'Meat, Mask, Burden': Probing the Contours of the Branded 'Self'. Journal of Consumer Culture 8.2 (Jul): 197-217. On the project of self-branding on TV, online, and on social network sites.

Heath, J. and Potter, A. (2006). The Rebel Sell: How the Counterculture Became Consumer Culture. Chichester: Capstone. Heath and Potter provocatively argue that so-called counterculture has always been co-opted by consumerism.

Klein, N. (2001). No Logo: No Space, No Choice, No Jobs. London: Flamingo. Account of the rise and impact of ubiquitous, multinational brands, and their implications for workers, consumers, identity and the environment.

Lasn, K. (1999). Culture Jam: The Uncooling of America. New York: Eagle Brook. Light and rhetorical, but an impassioned attack on contemporary consumer society. See for instance pp. 37-41, 51-57 on the subject.

McCracken, G. (1988). Culture and Consumption. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. A dense and provocative discussion of consumption, culture and identity by an anthropologist-economist; see also McCracken's blog.

McCracken, G. (2005). Culture And Consumption II: Markets, Meaning, And Brand Management. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. Paired essays (accessible) and articles (exacting) on contemporary consumer culture.

Ritzer, G. (2000). The McDonaldization of Society. New Century ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge. The classic text which coined the term 'McDonalidization'.

Ritzer, G. (2006). McDonaldization: The Reader. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge. Includes an interview with Morgan 'Super Size Me' Spurlock.

Ritzer, G. (2010). Enchanting a Disenchanted World: Revolutionizing the Means of Consumption. 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge. Ritzer discusses the increasing ubiquity of the new means of consumption delivered by spectacular, enchanting "cathedrals of consumption" such as fast food franchises, chain stores, shopping malls, cruise ships, casinos, theme parks, et al., drawing on the work of Marx, Weber and Baudrillard. Clear and accessible.

Schor, J. B. (2005). Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture. New York: Scribner. A closely researched look at marketing to children and the increasing 'commercialization' of childhood.

Sennett, R. (1998). The Corrosion of Character: The Personal Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism. London: Norton. Short, accessible, sociological discussion of employees' sense self-image within today's flexible, corporate structures.

Slater, D (1997). Consumer Culture and Modernity. Cambridge: Polity. Introduction to the key themes and ideas within the study of contemporary consumer society.

Smart, B. (1999). Resisting McDonaldization. London: SAGE. Critical responses to, and applications of, Ritzer's notion of McDonaldization.

Sulkunen, P., Holmwood, J., Radner, H. and Schulze, G. (eds.) (1997). Constructing the New Consumer Society. Houndsmill: Macmillan. A selection of essays addressing varied aspects of the "new consumerism" of afluent, modern societies.

Thompson, C. J. and Hirschman, E. C. (1995). Understanding the Socialized Body: A Poststructuralist Analysis of Consumers' Self-conceptions, Body Images, and Self-Care Practices. Journal of Consumer Research 22(2) (September), pp. 139-53. Based on discursive analyses of interviews with 30 consumers, focusing particularly on body image. Also relates to the normal subject and the carceral subject.


Journal of Consumer Culture (Sage). Available electronically via the Oxford Brookes library catalogue.