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Consumer Culture


Pellandini-Simányi L.

Course director


 Consumption in contemporary society is about much more than satisfying basic needs and using up goods. Many people express their identity through consumption, signal the social group to which they would like to belong - and from which they want to distinguish themselves - and enact their values through the goods that they consume. This course enables students to understand the social and cultural drivers of contemporary consumption, including the rise of subcultures, digital consumption and political consumerism. The course further familiarizes students with the “dark side” of consumption, such as overconsumption, climate change, inequality and problematic marketing practices. 

The course provides, first, an overview of the most important theories of consumer culture and consumer society, which focus on how consumption is linked to identity, social change and culture. Second, the course zooms in to contemporary “hot” topics of consumption, including green consumption, algorithm and data-driven consumption in digital settings and consumer resistance. Throughout the course, students will be required to do mini-research tasks at home and in class to understand if and how different theories can be applied in practice. 


The course will enable students to 

  1. understand how consumption is related to culture and society, such as changes in social categories, hierarchy, and identity 
  2. understand the key critical angles and engage in an informed critique of consumer culture
  3. understand how consumers express their identity through consumption 
  4. understand contemporary trends in digital consumption
  5. understand the environmental aspects of consumption and how ethical/political consumer movements seek to address them
  6. appreciate how consumption may be linked to power and domination
  7. understand the role marketing plays in the shaping of consumer culture 

Teaching mode

In presence

Learning methods

  • Lectures
  • Guided readings (with study questions)
  • Debates among students
  • Individual essay

Attendance is not compulsory, however, in order to obtain the full class participation mark (see below), students need to participate in at least six sessions, excluding the first and the last session.

Examination information

  • Exam: 70%
  • Individual essay: 25%
  • Class participation: 5%

Pass is from grade 6. To pass, students need to acquire a grade 6 both in the exam and in the overall mark.