Consumption is omnipresent in society to such a degree that it is increasingly difficult to imagine social relations, communities and institutions that are not saturated by consumer relations. Consumption is entangled in the most ordinary and intimate social contexts, activities and relations, yet, simultaneously, consumption is more often than not enacted as part of globally stretching chains of markets and media-representations. ‘Consumerism’ has often been used to categorise and sociologically critique this dominant societal arrangement, which combines mass-production and mass-consumption with the implied ideological discourse of the freedom of individual consumer choice. However, the term consumerism is also being used to conceptualise alternative forms of consumption, which attempt to use consumption processes to transform production practices, provisioning, appropriation and waste – such as political, ethical, sustainable and circular forms of consumerism. Contemporary sociological accounts of consumption cover both analyses of the more ordinary, routine, mundane aspects of consumption, as well as the more explicitly reflected upon, normative, societal aspects of it.
Yet, these two bodies of consumption analysis tend to remain separate in terms of focus and perspective. Bringing the two types of consumption analysis together to a larger degree in conceptual, methodological and empirical dialogues holds potential for conceptual sophistication, empirical inspiration and societal contribution. Thus, this mid-term conference encourages participants to reflect upon the relations, overlaps, ambivalences and paradoxes between mundane and deliberate forms of consumption.
How do patterns of consumption become socially and materially reproduced and changed? Which social dynamics are involved in the normalisation and normative legitimation of different kinds of consumption activities? In which ways are consumer and citizen positions related, and with which consequences? What are the implications for power relations in society from institutionalised consumption arrangements? How to account for questions of scale, and what are the methodological implications?