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Darren Dahl (Editor in Chief)Eileen FischerGita JoharVicki Morwitz

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Liberatory Postmodernism and the Reenchantment of Consumption

A. Fuat Firat, Alladi Venkatesh
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/209448 239-267 First published online: 1 December 1995

Abstract

In this article, we elaborate on various key ideas about consumption and consumer from a theoretical position that we have labeled “liberatory postmodernism.” By unmasking the limitations of modernism that have to do with the onerous nature of its metanarratives and narrow conventionalism, we show that postmodern developments offer alternate visions of consumption processes that have an emancipatory potential. The analysis in our article begins with a discussion of the philosophical foundations of modernism and postmodernism followed by a cultural critique of modernism—exposing, for example, the modernist distinction between production and consumption and the privileging of production over consumption. We demonstrate how postmodernism is concerned with the reversing of the conditions of modernity and with a wide range of issues regarding the construction of the subject (i.e., the consumer), the role of the symbolic in consumption processes, the notion of the spectacularization of life, the creation of the hyperreal, and the cultural signification of fragmentation. We conclude the article with a proposal for an epistemology of consumption that subsumes scientific knowledge under a broader category of narrative knowledge and recognizes multivocality of consumption forms.

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