Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Season of Hedonism

From the consumption files we see that shoppers admit to personal shopping during the season that meant to be about giving, not receiving:

"Our customers feel it's all right to be hedonistic," Mr. Chinniah said, "especially at holiday time."

An informal survey of retailers suggests that the hedonism is by no means limited to luxury outposts like Bergdorf Goodman. There is even a term to distinguish the practice of gratifying one's own desires from more selfless giving. "People are not really buying gifts, except little things like candles," a saleswoman at Emporio Armani on Madison Avenue said last Friday. "It's really greed buying, but we don't call it that," said the woman, who cannot be named under Armani corporate policy. "Self-purchase," she explained, is the industry euphemism of choice.

British anthropologist Daniel Miller has been publishing on consumption, identity, and consumer behavior for twenty years and wrote A Theory of Shopping, among others, which draws heavily on the work of French theorist Georges Bataille. An essay on his views of gift-giving and sacrifice can be found here. And for further engaging consumption studies, try Culture and Consumption by Grant McCracken, who also runs the blog Cultureby (see sidebar).

No comments: