03 Jun

Jenny Shaw on Shopping

Posted By Politybooks

9780745638614Shopping: meaningful or meaningless? It is the activity on which we in the rich nations spend most time after work and sleep, and the favourite soft target for the commentariat who regularly argue that shopping is more than emblematic of a ‘hollowed out’ society and is actually destroying the social fabric of modern ‘consumer’ societies.

Modern societies are consumer societies, as well as producer ones,and as they are also urban societies – self sufficiency is not an option.

Written against the grain of a social critique which cannot distinguish between shopping and consumerism this book shows how the activity of shopping holds us together physically, socially, psychologically, and as a community. As a ‘practice’ shopping is a mainstay of everyday life.

Shopping, the book, is essential for second and third year courses in the sociology ofeveryday life and will soon earn a place in courses in economic sociology; consumer behaviour; the life course; material culture; psycho-social studies; business studies; gender studies; cultural studies; and practical ethics.

Based on the premise that shopping is both more and less than buying, Shopping argues that to understand the activity we have to understand the meanings made and remade through it, and this can lead us to see shopping also as a‘practice’ as understood and commended by social philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre.

Still, shopping is not normally seen in this way and Shopping explores why shopping has a ‘bad name’, how it ‘fell from grace’ and instead of being associated with thrift and good housekeeping became synonymous with being a spendthrift. Our attachment to shopping is not all selfishness, frivolity and indulgence,and going shopping is not how we spend most of our money.

Shopping explains why early shopping memories are so lasting, why we have a deep attachment to certain shops, what we learn from shopping, how it tracks us and nudges us along the life course, and why old people are culturally ‘absent’ from the high street.

Examining shopping is a way of examining culture, thus in how we shop, where we shop, why we shop, and whether we profess to like or dislike shopping, are part of the way we express ourselves but also our nationality, our class and our gender.

Shoppingchallenges many everyday assumptions about shopping as well as the popular discourse about it as the epitome of meaninglessness, before concluding with a bold and radical account of the meaning of shopping as based on a ‘deep structure’ formed from the unconscious meanings and processes evoked by the activity.

Perceptive and penetrating, imaginative and interdisciplinary, Shopping is not a text book, but makes its readers think. It is completely original, there is nothing else like it on the market and it will be controversial.