28 - 31 August 2013
Torino, Italy

RN05 – Sociology of Consumption

Do we face a fundamental crisis of the consumer society? Potentials for critique and change

Coordinator:
Margit Keller margit.keller@ut.ee University of Tartu, Estonia

Since 2008 we have a global crisis of the economy, mainly driven by mad money markets. The amount of unemployed people increased almost everywhere. Whole states like Greece, Spain, Portugal have serious problems to refinance their welfare systems. Apparently this crisis is multi-faceted. It is not just a debt crisis, but also a political and a social crisis. But do we have also a serious crisis of the consumer society? Does this affect our way of consuming or even our perspective on consumption in a sustainable, substantial manner? Or isn’t it just the opposite, that the consumer society is the only stable factor in these turbulent times (both as a result of widening social inequalities where available income increases for some social groups and of the emergence of the ‘new middle classes’ in countries such as Brazil, Russia or China)?

Our consumption patterns are pushed and pulled in multiple directions as a consequence of change instigated by a wide array of factors, ranging from the economic downturn, the hypertrophy of the welfare state or the climate crisis. These changes raise questions regarding a required reconfiguration of social processes and conditions of consumption, the balance between the social dynamics of consumer cultures and the reproduction of social relations and, last but not least, the reaction of consumers and other stakeholders to possible future scenarios of consumer society. Inspired from the theme of the conference our particular focus lies on a bifurcation: shall we continue as usual or change our consumer society? Do we have enough trust in the agents of consumption (marketers, consumers, politicians, NGOs) to do the right thing? Beyond that we seek to shed a fresh light on potentials of critique within the sociology of consumption, from multiple theoretical and empirical traditions, both for interpreting and affecting changes, in line with the ESA general conference call for 2013.

Our Research Network invites papers that deal with the above and other various aspects of the sociology of consumption.

If you wish your paper to be considered for the PhD session(s), please submit the abstract to session 19RN05.

Possible themes include but are not limited to:

Sessions

Joint Sessions

  • 03_05JS28The Commercialization of Sport and Fitness (1)

    Joint session with RN28 – Society and Sports

    Chair: Fabio Lo Verde <fabio.loverde@unipa.it>, University of Palermo

    Understood as a suggestive manifestation of consumer culture, the fitness boom is larger than fitness activities and has tapped into sport in innovative ways. The mixing of physical, sportive activities and popular culture has been envisioned through extreme rhetorical cliché, either celebration or comdenation. This often corresponds to disciplinary specialisations: physical education and medical practice have typically played the celebratory tune in contrast to sociology, history and gender studies. This session aims at going beyond such readings to take a proper sociological look at the sport, fitness and physical activities practices which are organized through commercial institutions and relations (of various sorts).

    Marrying the sociology of sport and leisure with the sociology of consumption, the session will address critical questions such as: which institutional settings favour participation in sport and fitness activities? What are the advantages and shortcomings of commercial provision vis a vis public provision in the case of physical activities? Which kinds of relations are favoured in commercial fitness premises? Which values are promoted through sport and fitness practices as organized by commercial premises? How do trainers and trainees perceive and cope with commercialism? Which varieties of commercial relations can we discover in the field of fitness and sport activities, how do they differ and how do they compare with other commercial services? How does differentiation within the field respond to social boundaries (gender, class, ethnicity) without it? To what extent the “law of the market” explains the cultural dynamic in the fitness and sport activities? Papers should ideally address key relevant theoretical issues through empirical research.

  • 04_05JS28The Commercialization of Sport and Fitness (2)

    Joint session with RN28 – Society and Sports

    Chair: Roberta Sassatelli <roberta.sassatelli@unimi.it>, University of Milan

    Understood as a suggestive manifestation of consumer culture, the fitness boom is larger than fitness activities and has tapped into sport in innovative ways. The mixing of physical, sportive activities and popular culture has been envisioned through extreme rhetorical cliché, either celebration or comdenation. This often corresponds to disciplinary specialisations: physical education and medical practice have typically played the celebratory tune in contrast to sociology, history and gender studies. This session aims at going beyond such readings to take a proper sociological look at the sport, fitness and physical activities practices which are organized through commercial institutions and relations (of various sorts).

    Marrying the sociology of sport and leisure with the sociology of consumption, the session will address critical questions such as: which institutional settings favour participation in sport and fitness activities? What are the advantages and shortcomings of commercial provision vis a vis public provision in the case of physical activities? Which kinds of relations are favoured in commercial fitness premises? Which values are promoted through sport and fitness practices as organized by commercial premises? How do trainers and trainees perceive and cope with commercialism? Which varieties of commercial relations can we discover in the field of fitness and sport activities, how do they differ and how do they compare with other commercial services? How does differentiation within the field respond to social boundaries (gender, class, ethnicity) without it? To what extent the “law of the market” explains the cultural dynamic in the fitness and sport activities? Papers should ideally address key relevant theoretical issues through empirical research.

  • 05JS28The Commercialization of Sport and Fitness

    Joint session with RN28 – Society and Sports

    Chairs: Roberta Sassatelli & Fabio Lo Verde

    Understood as a suggestive manifestation of consumer culture, the fitness boom is larger than fitness activities and has tapped into sport in innovative ways. The mixing of physical, sportive activities and popular culture has been envisioned through extreme rhetorical cliché, either celebration or comdenation. This often corresponds to disciplinary specialisations: physical education and medical practice have typically played the celebratory tune in contrast to sociology, history and gender studies. This session aims at going beyond such readings to take a proper sociological look at the sport, fitness and physical activities practices which are organized through commercial institutions and relations (of various sorts).

    Marrying the sociology of sport and leisure with the sociology of consumption, the session will address critical questions such as: which institutional settings favour participation in sport and fitness activities? What are the advantages and shortcomings of commercial provision vis a vis public provision in the case of physical activities? Which kinds of relations are favoured in commercial fitness premises? Which values are promoted through sport and fitness practices as organized by commercial premises? How do trainers and trainees perceive and cope with commercialism? Which varieties of commercial relations can we discover in the field of fitness and sport activities, how do they differ and how do they compare with other commercial services? How does differentiation within the field respond to social boundaries (gender, class, ethnicity) without it? To what extent the “law of the market” explains the cultural dynamic in the fitness and sport activities? Papers should ideally address key relevant theoretical issues through empirical research.

  • a06JS05JS13Family, Consumption and Markets

    Joint session with RN13 – Sociology of families and intimate lives

    Chair: Bente Halkier <bha@ruc.dk>, University of Roskilde, Denmark

    This joint session explores the relationships between families, intimate relationships, consumption and markets. Papers, which address these themes in relation to life course, generations and genders are welcome. We are also interested in papers that reflect upon the ways in which “crisis” (in the broad sense and enveloping economic, social, familial, markets …) comes into focus. How is this connected with “critique” (e.g. through resistance in/through consumption) and change?

    For an extended CfP for this session see http://www.esa-consumption.org/


Thank you very much to all participants for making esa torino an outstanding conference.