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Consumer Choice: Petit Bourgeois Tautology and Bourgeois Individualism in the Age of Globalization

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In the humanities and the social sciences the issue of globalization has dominated contemporary academic debates dedicated to the condition of modernity. From an anthropological perspective, the heart of these disputes can be described in terms of: intercultural dialogue, a widespread relativism undermining an authority of inherited systems of values and norms, a progressive erosion of traditional forms of common coexistence, and the pervasive influence of western popular culture that is repeatedly accused of causing standardization, only to mention the most crucial.

In this paper an attempt will be made to consider the question of choice which is frequently raised in the context of individual autonomy as well as the rationality of the decision-making process or human action in general. Hence, we will be forced to exceed the Limits of classic anthropological topics in order to discuss puzzling issues commonly raised by philosophers, sociologists or economists. However, certain general remarks aimed at outlining the background of our core analysis must come first. The same holds true for the tentative explanation of terms which will be used in the course of a more detailed inquiry namely: globalization, consumerism, petit bourgeois tautology and bourgeois individualism. In addition, it seems crucial to specify the approach we will adopt the essence of which is embodied in the expression “thick description”.

When the question of the contemporary meaning of “choice“ is considered, reference to the issue of globalization seems inevitable. Despite long-standing feuds over formal and definitional issues, most authors unanimously agree that the fact that we witness and are involved in the socio-cultural process under study is a serious obstacle to a detailed and profound analysis of the problem of globalization. Under these circumstances we cannot keep the safe distance characteristic of an objective and neutral observer for which we are indebted to scientism. On the other hand, however, methodological assumptions of the postmodernist paradigm are rightly accused of a lack of cohesion, careless eclecticism and subjectivity, a rejection of scrupulous academic investigation into social phenomena in favor of experimental textualization. Let us now, then, specify the approach to be employed further.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2007

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