Local consumption cultures in a globalizing world

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Focusing on the resilience of distinctive local consumption cultures, this paper challenges some of the more sweeping claims that have been advanced in the name of ‘globalization’. Thinking about a ‘globalizing’ rather than a fully ‘globalized’ world encourages us to examine the deeply contested nature of the concept and to explore the geographically uneven nature of recent economic, political and cultural transformations. This paper approaches globalization as a site of struggle rather than as an established fact, emphasizing the need for empirically grounded studies of the impact of ‘globalization’ on consumer cultures in different geographical contexts. The paper examines the way that producers have ‘customized’ their products for different markets (drawing on evidence from China and South Africa). It then reviews case study evidence from three contrasting consumption cultures: consumption and ‘public culture’ in India, ‘consumer nationalism’ in China, and ‘artful consumption’ in Russia. The paper concludes by identifying some current debates and outlining some directions for future research, including a re-emphasis on consumption and material culture; an exploration of consumption as social practice; the delineation of commodity-specific consumption cultures; and some reflections on the political, ethical and methodological issues that are being raised in contemporary consumption research.

Keywords: China; India; Russia; cultures of consumption; globalization

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.0020-2754.2004.00123.x

Publication date: June 1, 2004

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