This “distributed view of cultural meaning” (Hannerz 1992, 16) emphasizes the dynamics of fragmentation, plurality, fluidity, and the intermingling (or hybridization) of consumption traditions and ways of life (Featherstone 1991; Firat and Venkatesh 1995).While a distributive view of culture is not the invention of CCT, this research tradition has significantly developed this perspective through empirical studies that analyze how particular manifestations of consumer culture are constituted, sustained, transformed, and shaped by broader historical forces (such as cultural narratives, myths, and ideologies) and grounded in specific socioeconomic circumstances and marketplace systems.This CCT is not a unified, grand theory, nor does it aspire to such nomothetic claims.Rather, it refers to a family of theoretical perspectives that address the dynamic relationships between consumer actions, the marketplace, and cultural meanings.Accordingly, our thematic review is by no means intended to be exhaustive or all inclusive.Over the years, many nebulous epithets characterizing this research tradition have come into play (i.e., relativist, postpositivist, interpretivist, humanistic, naturalistic, postmodern), all more obfuscating than clarifying.The term “consumer culture” also conceptualizes an interconnected system of commercially produced images, texts, and objects that groups use—through the construction of overlapping and even conflicting practices, identities, and meanings—to make collective sense of their environments and to orient their members’ experiences and lives (Kozinets 2001).
Owing to the length constraints of this forum, we regrettably cannot give due consideration to the full spectrum of culturally oriented consumer research that appears in other publication venues such as the European Journal of Marketing; Culture, Markets, and Consumption; International Journal of Research in Marketing; Journal of Consumer Culture; Journal of Marketing; Journal of Material Culture; Research in Consumer Behavior; and a host of books and edited volumes.
In sum, CCT is an interdisciplinary research tradition that has advanced knowledge about consumer culture (in all its heterogeneous manifestations) and generated empirically grounded findings and theoretical innovations that are relevant to a broad constituency in the base social science disciplines, public policy arenas, and managerial sectors.
We offer this review both as an entree for those who have not followed the development of CCT and as an integrative frame of reference for those who have.
Thus, consumer culture denotes a social arrangement in which the relations between lived culture and social resources, and between meaningful ways of life and the symbolic and material resources on which they depend, are mediated through markets.
The consumption of market‐made commodities and desire‐inducing marketing symbols is central to consumer culture, and yet the perpetuation and reproduction of this system is largely dependent upon the exercise of free personal choice in the private sphere of everyday life (Holt 2002).