Consumption: Passive or Active

The crucial difference between the structural and cultural view lies namely in the fact that the former regards consumption as a passive act whereas the latter argues that it is an active practice wherein identities are constructed via consumer choice.  The structuralist approach claims that consumers are “infected with artificial wants dreamed up by the international league of producers” (247, Appleby) and that consumption “is a mere shadow of production” (132, Storey, Consumption in Everyday Life).  Naively embracing the ideals and values engendered and exported by the multi-national conglomerates, consumer choice exist to certain extent however it’s heavily dictated by advertisements, branding, merchandizing and the hegemonic agenda mediated by the mass media.

Culturalist, on the contrary, rejects the claim that consumers are manipulated by commercialization and views consumption as a highly active act and social practice that offers “avenues for individual expression through a range of commodities” (608, Bennet, Subcultures or Neo-tribes?). Consumption does not follow at the heels of production, but rather it is a means of expressing individuality and constructing social identities.

My personal take on the matter is that individuals are simultaneously consumers and producers of popular culture, and thus the two paradigms offer concurrently accurate and flawed concepts concerning the issue at hand.

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