By Kaj Illomen
Kaj Ilmonen was once a pioneer within the 3rd wave of the sociology of intake. This book provides a balanced evaluate of the sociology of intake, arguing that the passion of 'the 3rd wave' exaggerated the function of the symbolic and imaginary on the cost of the materiality of human societies.
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Additional resources for A Social and Economic Theory of Consumption
However, in Europe neither production nor the distribution of products has ever been directly linked with private economic interests associated with commodity ownership. Yes, these interests have existed, but exchange economy has fundamentally been driven by social interests. Those interests have been mainly related to kinship and family systems, to the gender division of labour and to some measure of reciprocity of services. Indeed, Karl Polanyi (1957, 44–47, 49), scholar of the roots of market economy, observes that in pre-capitalist society ‘the economic system is, in effect, a mere function of social organization’.
Rather than upholding freedom of exchange, these economies are imposing a necessity of exchange: in order to live people have no option but to sell their labour power. The workings of the modern global economy, its ‘China (or India or Brazil) phenomenon’, structural unemployment and monopolistic tendencies all go to show just how far removed Friedman’s thinking is from economic reality, and was so even in the 1980s. Even then, he was unable to justify the linkage between markets and freedom, on the one hand, and the state and coercion, on the other.
In Marx’s words, price reflects its being the ‘product of labour’. Price anchors commodity and consumption from one end to the economy. Consumption, in other words, always has an economic side to it. In the national accounts it is reflected in consumer demand, for individual citizens it is reflected in the relationship between incomes and commodity prices. However, there can be no demand for commodities unless they are perceived by consumers as objects of their needs, as use values. The use value of a commodity, whether real or imaginary, can only be harnessed to the consumer’s purposes after exchange has taken place.
A Social and Economic Theory of Consumption by Kaj Illomen