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Consumerism: Histories, Theories, Practices

Semester and Year FA 2019
Course Number ELEC-GG2759
Section 001
Instructor Kimberly DaCosta
Days R
Time 3:30 PM - 6:10 PM
Units 4
Level G


Open to advanced undergraduates with permission of the instructor (


Contemporary Western societies are often characterized as places where the process of accumulating and consuming material goods plays an outsized role in shaping individuals, economies and cultures.  Consumerism—  the linking of happiness, freedom, and economic prosperity with the purchase and consumption of goods—has long been taken for granted as constitutive of the “good life” in these societies. This course takes an interdisciplinary (sociology, anthropology, history, economics and popular media) approach to consumption and how it is understood in different societies. In particular, we engage variable histories of consumption, theoretical explanations of its rise and effects, and everyday practices of consumption. We explore consumption’s role in shaping racial, class and international boundaries and examine how consumption informs how people think of their identities, of success, failure and happiness. Theorists and texts include Marx, Marcuse, Bourdieu, Bauman, Frank Trentmann, Elizabeth Chin and Jeremy Prestholdt's Domesticating the World.


All Syllabi

Course Type

Graduate Electives (ELEC-GG)