After Practice? Material Semiotic Approaches to Consumption and Economy

David M Evans*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

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Abstract

The ‘turn’ to practice in social theory is proving influential in the sociological study of consumption (following Warde 2005). This paper joins current debates that appraise the contributions of this growing body of work, specifically its relationship with – and possible mode of succession to – cultural studies of consumption. It considers two claims about the impact and status of practice theoretic repertoires in consumption scholarship (Warde 2014). First, that they invite greater attention than the cultural turn to objects and technologies as material forces. Second, that they have not yet found ways to locate consumption in the context of wider economic processes. My central argument is that theories of practice offer a partial reading of materiality, and that engagement with a greater range of material semiotic approaches can help in making better links between consumption and economy. This argument is illustrated through reference to market agencements, the social life of things, and ontological politics. I suggest these perspectives are compatible with practice theoretic approaches and that taken together, they represent some promising responses to a suite of fundamental challenges confronting consumption studies. I conclude that theories of practice – plural – have not yet run their course as an approach to consumption and economy. The parameters of consumption scholarship are also considered alongside the relationships between political economy and cultural analysis.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCultural Sociology
Early online date27 Jun 2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Jun 2020

Keywords

  • consumption
  • market studies
  • material culture
  • ontological politics
  • theories of practice

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