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Shopping is a collective act. Most of the time it is done in groups, in families or with friends. Much of our consumption is either done with other people or for other people. In the high street, teenagers shop in groups, buying the same clothes and music their peers do. In our often
solitary trips to the supermarket, we buy for our families. Consumption is driven by a sense of what we need to keep our collective lives together. Sometimes we shop to give to others to strengthen social bonds. At other times, we buy the same things as our friends to gives us status amongst
our peers. An understanding of the social life of things is missing from contemporary debates about consumption. In their effort to reformulate progressive politics, many on the left have called for the creation of a 'post-consumer society' in which more noble values than shopping lie at the
centre of British life. Consumerism is criticised as a debilitating condition that destroys the sources of solidarity and common life. The critique in each case is that consumption is driven by a selfish desire to infinitely accumulate. This article argues that this assumption is false.
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