A Theory of Shopping

A Theory of Shopping

Daniel Miller

Language: English

Pages: 180

ISBN: 0801485517

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The butt of endless jokes and the focus of considerable anguish, shopping offers significant insights into contemporary social relations and their nuances. This book is about shopping for ordinary things. It is also about love and devotion manifest within families and about the nature of sacrificial ritual. A significant contributor to material culture studies, Daniel Miller is an acute observer and an exceptional storyteller. He approaches shopping not as an end in itself but as a means to discover what people's practices, closely observed, reveal about their relationships. The ethnographic sections of the book are based on a year's study of shopping on a street in North London. This provides the basis for a sensitive description of how shoppers develop and imagine the social relationships most important to them through the medium of selecting goods. Among the characteristics of these shopping expeditions are the concept of "the treat," and the centrality of thrift. Miller juxtaposes on his account of shopping various theories that anthropologists have brought to bear on the ritual of sacrifice, including that of the French philosopher George Bataille. He then integrates these elements to postulate his theory of shopping as sacrifice in terms as original and as utterly engaging as the stories he tells of individual shoppers.

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equal weight to the huge effort of consciousness involved in planning, considering and taking account of the complex and often contradictory demands made upon the housewife. DeVault discusses shopping, but the emphasis is on shopping as a stage in the preparing and giving of meals to the family. The evidence provided by her study seems almost entirely compatible with the descriptions I have given of shopping. DeVault provides considerable evidence to show that the bulk of decisionmaking is

same token then valorizes the work of the housewife as provider. The degree of collusion in this use of gender as difference is evident in the case of Michelle. A Well, I think he doesn’t do the shopping very often and when he does he tends to be more indulgent. I tend to think more about the money side of things. Like for example when he was on his half-term break, he did the shopping one day and he bought lots of what I would call indulgent things that I wouldn’t normally buy. But he only

end in itself, that is people are going shopping in order to have the experience of saving money. For some the thrill is in the bargain and it almost doesn’t matter how much one spends in order to achieve it. It is also clear that although the forms of thrift differ considerably across class and income group, thrift itself is as important a factor in shopping for the wealthy as it is for the poor. After all, it is a common cliché on the street that the rich are rich because they are thrifty.

shopping and sacrifice will be accomplished through a consideration of the development of various subjects and objects of devotion. Initially, these are set against each other. First, a consideration is given to the subjects of devotion: gods, patriarchy and infants, and the main contemporary expression of that devotion as love. Following this, the focus is turned upon the objects of devotion as in inalienable possessions, thrift, the house and finally supermarket commodities. By the conclusion,

University of California Press. Oakley, A. 1976 Housewife. Harmondsworth: Penguin. Pahl, J. 1984 Divisions of Labour. Oxford: Blackwell. Pahl, J. 1989 Money and Marriage. London: Macmillan. Pahl, J. and Wallace, C. 1988 ‘Neither angels in marble nor rebels in red: privatization and working-class consciousness’. In Rose, D. (ed.) Social Stratification and Economic Change. London: Hutchinson. Parker, R. 1996 Torn in Two: the experience of maternal ambivalence. London: Virago. Parry, J. 1979

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