Investigating consumption anxiety thesis: aesthetic choice, narrativisation and social performance
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Warde's (1994) theoretical analysis of possible anxieties provoked in the act of consumption synthesises a large body of contemporary literature on uncertainty, social change and consumption. In doing so, it offers a predominantly structural model of the anxiety provoking tensions and forces individual consumers may be exposed to. Drawing on the work of contemporary figurehead theorists of social change, and proposing his own application of Durkheim's model of suicide to the problem of consumption anxiety, Warde presents a model of how anxieties and their mitigation are embedded within configurations of contemporary consumer culture. Though Warde's analysis illustrates the structural, theoretical context of potential consumption anxieties for particular social groups, it is unable to specify how such anxieties are manifested and managed - or performed - by individuals within specific social and consumption settings. This paper takes an interpretive approach, conceptualising consumption anxiety as a discursive, narrative phenomenon likely to surface within particular social settings that are conducive to generating expressions of anxiety. The paper also considers the relation between narrativisation and objects, arguing that the cultural capacity of objects must be understood within local settings where objects are afforded a capacity to act through various discourses. The argument is drawn using selections of face-to-face interview data collected from a sample of middle-class householders on the practice of home decoration.
The Sociological Review
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