Sociology of Economy and Consumption


Alienation is the social and psychological separation between oneself and one’s life experiences. Alienation is a concept originally applied to work and work settings but today is also used to characterize separation from the political sphere. To be alienated is to live in a society but not to feel that one is a part of […]


Financial and bankruptcy law refers to the laws applied to savings, investments, and loss, among other economic areas. Financial law deals with the broad range of saving and investment products as well as the services related to these products. These include personal finance, corporate finance, credit trade, budgeting, and stocks. Bankruptcy law, on the other […]

Base and Superstructure

In the Preface to the first published installment of his critique of political economy, Marx presented the classic statement of the base and superstructure metaphor. In a sketch of his work’s ”guiding thread,” Marx (1907: lv) noted that humankind enters determinate, necessary social relations of production appropriate to a determinate developmental stage of the material […]

Bourgeoisie and Proletariat

The Communist Manifesto s powerful imagery has permanently identified Marx with ”bourgeoisie, ” ”proletariat, ” and ”class struggle” even though, he maintained, Adam Smith, David Ricardo, James Mill, and J. B. Say, among others, were first to identify the struggles of ”the three great classes -landed property and the capitalist and working classes – as […]

Brand Culture

Brand research emerged from the allied fields of management, marketing, and strategy, which generally emphasize pragmatic models of brand ”effects driven by quantitative analysis. Recently, sociologists, anthropologists, and geographers have looked at brands from critical perspectives, acknowledging the importance of brands in society, and providing a necessary counterpoint to managerial and psychological views of branding. […]

Brands and Branding

Brands are the names, signs, and symbols designed to identify the offerings of one producer from those of the competition. As such, brands can be distinguished from the more generic constructs of goods and services. Brands and branding have played a crucial role in the development of market economies by allowing producers a way to […]

Harry Braverman

Harry Braverman, journalist, publisher, and a director of Monthly Review Press (1967-76), is best known for his book Labor and Monopoly Capital, published in 1974. This helped to continue the Marxist tradition within class theory when current analysis was centering on the rise of the middle class and the increasingly diamond-shaped nature of the class […]


Capital, as a noun referring to the funds individuals or corporations use as the basis for financial operations, is first employed in 1709 within ”An Act for Enlarging the Capital Stock of the Bank of England.” Capitalism, representing a system where capital is advanced to increase wealth, did not come into use until William Thackeray’s […]

Social Institutions of Capitalism

The concept of capitalism refers to the idea that certain societies allow economic actors to rationally organize the social and financial capital at their disposal in pursuit of perpetually renewed private profits. The organizational forms actors have chosen to organize economic transactions vary, but an oft-used classification distinguishes between formal organizations, markets for the exchange […]

Commodities and Commodification

Commodities are things that are useful, or that satisfy fundamental human needs — such as food or shelter — or more ephemeral needs, such as the desire to appear attractive or successful. As it is understood today, however, a commodity is a product that is bought and sold. This narrowing of the term came about […]

Conspicuous Consumption

The term conspicuous consumption entered the sociological lexicon via Thorstein Veblen s biting analysis of the spending patterns of the rich and nouveau riches in the late nineteenth century. The Theory of the Leisure Class (1994 [1899]) is an account of how these groups spent enormous energy and money constructing an ostentatious style of life. […]

Children’s Consumer Culture

Children s consumer culture refers to the institutional, material and symbolic arrangements which organize a young person s involvement in, and movement through, the early life course in terms of commercial interests and values. Children are both subject to and arise as subjects in consumer contexts. The meanings which adhere to commercial goods are at […]


Consumption has been defined by economists in utilitarian terms as individuals taking care of their needs and maximizing their utilities in market exchanges with the act of consumption taking place for the most part in private life. Even Marx saw it this way; while the shares of consumption for individuals were determined by property and […]

Consumption and the Body

The relationship between the body and material culture in the post-industrial world is defined through consumption. How one experiences the body, manages corporeal identity, and participates in social rituals as an embodied subject is, to a great extent, commodified. Changes in perspectives on the body are intertwined with the advent of consumer culture and the […]

Cathedrals and Landscapes of Consumption

Although George Ritzer (2005) is the theorist most responsible for popularizing the phrase ”cathedrals of consumption, it has been used at least since Kowinski, who stated that ”malls are sometimes called cathedrals of consumption, meaning that they are the monuments of a new faith, the consumer religion, which has largely replaced the old (1985: 218). […]

Green and Sustainable Consumption

Sustainable/green consumption encompasses those disciplines, discourses, policy initiatives and practices that involve the design, implementation, and promotion of consumption practices and production technologies that seek to remedy any negative effects of human economic activity. This implies that current patterns of resource extraction, production, and consumption levels are unsustainable, and if left unchecked, will lead to […]

Consumption and the Internet

The study of consumption within the social sciences has been recently extended to include consumption of and on the Internet. Mass adoption of the Internet in the early to mid-1990s throughout western countries and beyond raises new questions about consumer culture, as the Internet facilitates the shift from mass to specialized, flexible, and dispersed forms […]

Dependency and World-Systems Theories

Dependency approaches emerged out of Latin America in the 1960s in reaction to modernization theories of development. Dependentistas attributed the difficulties of development in the global South to the legacies of the long history of colonialism, as well as contemporary international power relations. This approach suggested that international inequalities were socially structured and that hierarchy […]

Development: Political Economy

The emergence of the idea of development in western culture is closely linked to the evolutionary worldview that began to gain ground in Europe in the eighteenth century. Their common denominator can be seen in the idea of continuous social change usually proceeding in distinct stages and entailing an improvement of living conditions. In the […]

Division of Labor

The concept of the division of labor is used by both structural functionalists, the students of Durkheim, and conflict theorists, the students of Marx, but the meaning of the concept differs. For Durkheim it means the occupational structure, and it also includes a new form of social solidarity — organic solidarity — that integrates the […]