During the last thirty years, ‘consumption’ has become a major topic in the study of contemporary culture within anthropology, psychology and sociology. For many authors it has become central to understanding the nature of material culture in the modern world but this paper argues that the concept is, in British writing at least, too concerned with its economic origins in the selling and buying of consumer goods or commodities. It is argued that to understand material culture as determined through the monetary exchange for things - the cash nexus - leads to an inadequate sociological understanding of the social relations with objects. The work of Jean Baudrillard is used both to critique the concept of consumption as it leads to a focus on advertising, choice, money and shopping and to point to a more sociologically adequate approach to material culture that explores objects in a system of models and series, ‘atmosphere’, functionality, biography, interaction and mediation.
“The final, definitive version of this article has been published in the Journal, Sociology, 34 (4), 2000, © SAGE Publications Ltd, 2000 by SAGE Publications Ltd at the Sociology page: http://soc.sagepub.com/ on SAGE Journals Online: http://online.sagepub.com/