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Consumption

Consumption

BIBLIOGRAPHY

The study of consumption is important in many fields of social science, including anthropology, sociology, economics, and psychology. A key definition of consumption is one that reflects our use of the term in daily life. That is, consumption may be defined as the personal expenditure of individuals and families that involves the selection, usage, and disposal or reuse of goods and services. In this respect, we are all consumers, choosing and using goods and services, which we pay for with earnings, savings, or credit.

As late as the last century, the term was primarily linked to disease: consumption was another term used to describe pulmonary tuberculosis (TB). Because of this fact, as well as the conventional use of the term to designate wasting or destruction, consumption had a decidedly negative connotation until the middle to late twentieth century.

While there is a tendency to associate consumption of goods and services with modernity, where it has become central to the lives of individuals and the social and economic lives of communities and societies, consumption is part of any social order. In premodern societies, there was typically a closer relationship between the producer and consumer: for instance, the cows of a particular farmer produced milk, some of which he kept for his own use and some of which he may have traded to a neighbor in exchange for part of her crop of soybeans. Production and consumption were closely partnered and reflected an economic system constructed on subsistence production and precapitalist means of exchange, such as barter.

The capitalist economy is built on the relationship between production and consumption, and goods and services are exchanged for money and credit. In contrast to earlier economic forms, the distance between producer and consumer grows as the division of labor becomes more complex and fewer people grow their own food, make their own clothing, or receive education, protection, or other services from within their own family, clan, or other small group.

Classical economics, the product of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century thinkers like Adam Smith (17231790) and David Ricardo (17721823), theorized capitalist markets and argued for the power of the free market. Classical economics posited the notion of consumer rationality, assuming that consumers of goods and services are rational and spend money in ways that maximize satisfaction from purchases.

Another aspect of consumption theorized in economics is the phenomenon of underconsumption. In underconsumption theory, economic stagnation is fostered by an imbalance between consumer demand and the production of goods. Though underconsumption theory is not central in contemporary economics, it influenced both academic thinking and public policy in the early twentieth century. Beginning around this time, concerns about underconsumption spurred governmental intervention in the economy, particularly public-works spending, which was seen as central to putting disposable income into the hands of American consumers.

Economist John Kenneth Galbraiths (19082006) most widely recognized book, The Affluent Society (1958), offers a mid-twentieth-century perspective on economics and consumption. Galbraith proposed a corrective to the conventional theories of economics, which assumed a scarcity of resources. This scarcity, he suggested, justified increased private-sector production and limited government regulation and taxation. However, Galbraith believed the contemporary period on which he focused was characterized by an affluent society in which scarcity was not a central concern. As such, he posited that government economic practices were misguided and, in fact, fostered a paradoxical situation of private-sector affluence and public-sector squalor. That is, while private consumption grew, public spending on infrastructure projects, including parks and schools, diminished. Galbraiths support of public-sector spending has influenced liberal and neoliberal thinkers who followed him. Interestingly, the affluent society of which Galbraith wrote and about which he was concerned consumed far less than the consumer society of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

While Marxist economic theory is commonly associated with concerns about capitalism and production, Karl Marx (18181883) did not neglect to recognize the function of consumption in capitalist society. In the Grundrisse, he argued that a condition of production in capitalism is the discovery, creation, and satisfaction of new needs arising from society itself. [Capitalism involves] the developing of a constantly expanding and more comprehensive system of different kinds of labor, different kinds of production, to which a constantly enriched system of needs corresponds (Marx [18571858] 1973, p. 409). While Marx highlighted production as a driving process of industrial capitalism, consumption, whether driven by need (associated with the proletariat) or materialist desires (associated with the bourgeoisie), was a critical partner.

Though the perspectives of classical economists (the bourgeois economists, according to Marx) and Marxists differ in many respects, they share a similar perspective on the valuation of consumables (goods and services). The labor theory of value, embraced by classical economists through the middle of the nineteenth century and central to Marxist economic theory, holds that the exchange value of a good or service is derived from the amount of labor (including labor expended on gathering raw materials and producing machinery) required to produce it. Marxist economics, however, adds that the profit derived by capitalist owners of the means of production comes from value added by workers to the consumable good but not paid to them in wages. Capitalist production, thus, is exploitative, as workers produce goods and surplus value is appropriated by the owners.

The labor theory of value has been challenged by social scientists in, among others, the fields of economics and sociology. For instance, the theory of subjective value challenges the notion of intrinsic value that is present in that theory by suggesting that value derives from the power of an object (or service) to meet a need or a desire. The value of a consumable, thus, may derive from variables such as its utility, its scarcity, or its status. Among sociologists, nineteenth-century French scholar Gabriel Tarde (18431904) was among the first to locate the value of goods in the intensity of consumer desire rather than in the production process. Contemporary sociologists have elaborated the point more fully, highlighting the power of modern marketing in creating desire for goods and services.

Sociologist George Ritzer has written extensively on consumption (and overconsumption) as a sociological artifact of modern society. He argues that modern states are characterized far less by production than by consumption. That is, while in earlier decades, the economies of countries like the United States were focused on production of goods, today many modern states produce few tangible goods (though they continue to produce intangible goods like knowledge and information). Rather, consumption is central to the national economy.

In Enchanting a Disenchanted World, Ritzer suggests that, in understanding the nexus between consumption, capitalism, and modernity, social scientists need to attend to the new means of consumption, which he defines as those things that make it possible for people to acquire goods and services and for the same people to be controlled and exploited as consumers (1999, p. 57). Examples of the new means of consumption are shopping malls, cruise ships, and Las Vegasstyle casinos and resorts. All of these are places that offer the consumer ample buying opportunities but, at the same time, operate as instruments of consumer control, as consumers are convinced to buy what they do not need, to believe that they need what they only want, and to spend beyond their means in order to achieve a sought-after emotional state or status. Even the physical layout of buying venues like supermarkets and malls is constructed with the aim of maximizing spending by fostering impulse buying and forcing consumers to forge a path past a plethora of enticing products or shops before finding the products they need, or even the exit.

In his 1899 book, The Theory of the Leisure Class, iconoclastic economist Thorstein Veblen (18571929) argued that in well-off societies spending operates as a means by which individuals establish social position. He coined the term conspicuous consumption, which he suggested was common among the nouveau riche, a class that emerged from the new wealth generated in nineteenth-century America by the second Industrial Revolution. In this period, the rich flaunted their good fortune with the public consumption of luxury items. In this cultural context, Veblen suggested that ostentatious displays of wealth, rather than honest productivity, showed ones success to society. Of the culture on which he wrote, he commented that labor comes to be associated in mens habits of thought with weakness and subjection to a master. It is therefore a mark of inferiority ([1899] 1994, p. 41). That is, it was participation in consumption rather than participation in production (the labor force) that defined ones status in society.

French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (19302002) approached the issue of consumption from another angle. He argued in Distinction (1984) that taste can be understood as a field of contestation. Within this field, taste is contested and those with greater resources have the power to define what is in good taste and bad taste. Those in the upper classes, for instance, have the opportunity to both learn and define what is in good taste. By comparison, those in the working class lack the knowledge or the means to exhibit the distinctive (good) tastes of the upper class and are disadvantaged by their lack of what Bourdieu calls cultural capital. Bourdieu is not suggesting that these categories of culture are objectively real. Rather, he is arguing that taste is a field of play in which those with more power are able to both define and act out good taste.

In terms of consumption, the taste for burgers or foie gras, commercial action films or foreign movies, and mass-produced beer or fine wine, and the classes we associate with those choices, are socially determined but, like many other social phenomena, take on the appearance of being natural. Consequently, argues Bourdieu, taste is a field in which class inequalities are socially produced and reproduced.

One aspect of consumption that is endemic in the United States and other economically advanced countries like Japan and Australia is competitive consumption. In the middle of the twentieth century, Americans, particularly those in the rapidly expanding suburbs of postWorld War II America, were concerned with keeping up with the Joneses. Economist James Duesenberry (1949), writing in this period, focused on the phenomenon of competitive consumption. The demographic, economic, and technological boom years of the postwar era made acquisition of new consumer goods like dishwashers and color televisions possible, and competitive consumption made their acquisition probable.

Consumption is powerfully influenced by marketing. While this idea is axiomatic today, the power of advertising was not always so widely recognized. In the mid-twentieth century, Vance Packard (19141996) illuminated the tactics and techniques of the advertising industry in The Hidden Persuaders (1957). Packard described the marketing of goods through the use of motivational research, subliminal advertising, and other subtle but effective methods of persuasion based in scientific study. Packard linked the imperative to sell to a massive tide of production that followed World War II: marketers recognized the importance of creating an imperative to consume that could take advantage of the rising tide of affluence (also recognized by Galbraith). Packard took a position against consumer manipulation, arguing that it was a moral question.

As Packard recognized, in contemporary America, competitive consumption is heavily driven by the influence of the media. While the reference groups of the past included neighbors who commonly inhabited the same socioeconomic status, the reference groups of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century include those whose earnings may far outpace those of the average consumer. Economist Juliet Schors The Overspent American (1998) posits that while consumption in early postwar America revolved around keeping up with neighborhood norms, reference groups have stretched to include workplace colleagues. The movement of more women into the workplace may have been a catalyst in the transformation of reference groups, as working families may have less time to attend to the habits and acquisitions of neighbors (if they know them at all). Further, reference groups are now also composed of friends who inhabit the fantasy worlds of television and films (she gives the example of the popular American television program, Friends, on which stylishly dressed twentysomethings inhabited well-appointed apartments in New York City that few of their real world contemporaries could afford). Modern efforts to keep up with ones reference groups are thus more costly and more likely to drive one into debt.

Following close behind Schors careful social scientific dissection of modern consumption is Robert H. Franks Luxury Fever (1999). Frank argues that the luxury fever that has gripped modern America is characterized by the pursuit of grander, flashier, more costly goods, ranging from backyard grills (he discovers a top-of-the-line grill that retails for $5,000, not including shipping and handling) to automobiles to megahomes. This pursuit, he notes, is embraced not only by the very rich, but also by consumers with far less disposable income as well, leading to low rates of saving and growing rates of debt. Frank argues that an altered spending environment, in which expectations regarding ones own consumption or even ones gifts to others, is the product of the profligate spending of those at the top of the economic pyramid and the availability of extravagantly priced products. He elaborates the example of the grill: The real significance of offerings like the $5,000 Viking-Frontgate Professional Grill is that their presence makes buying a $1,000 unit seem almost frugal. As more people buy these upmarket grills, the frame of reference that defines what the rest of us consider an acceptable outdoor grill will inevitably continue to shift (1999, p. 11). To mitigate the effects of the countrys febrile state, Frank prescribes tax exemption for savings and the institution of a progressive consumption tax, arguing, as did Galbraith, that there needs to be greater attention given to public infrastructure spending, which falls by the wayside in a society obsessed with private consumption.

The use of advertising to create a relationship between material products and people has been examined by Jean Kilbourne. In Cant Buy My Love (2000), Kilbourne argues that advertisers seek to spur consumption by disseminating the message that products fulfill human needs for things like love, relationships, and respect. Young people are particularly susceptible to messages that promise that product consumption will give them emotional fulfillment. The message has ample opportunities to reach its audience: according to Kilbourne, the average American is exposed to no fewer than 3,000 advertising messages each day.

Social pressures for status, relentless advertising, and easily accessible credit can bring about hyperconsumption. Psychology recognizes hyperconsumption as a disorder, and the term oniomania (which comes from the Greek term onios, for sale) is a label used to designate people obsessed with shopping (conventionally called shopaholics ). Because the profligate spending of money and the consumption of luxury goods is not only socially acceptable, but often appears desirable, a shopping addiction is less likely to be taken as seriously as other addictions, such as gambling or alcoholism.

Consumption, and arguably even overconsumption, is not only acceptable in the social arena of modern American society, but it is also embraced. Consumer spending accounts for fully two-thirds of all economic activity in the United States. As such, in spite of the substantial debt carried by Americans in contrast to the rest of the developed world, public policy is largely favorable to sustained and even increased consumption. In the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, some political commentators embraced the term market patriotism to describe the federal governments entreaties to continue buying and spending.

Modern market patriotism represents an interesting contrast to the wartime sacrifices asked of previous generations of Americans. For instance, during World War II, Americans were entreated to carefully control consumption. External controls like rationing were supplemented by appeals to patriotism, including the Consumers Victory Pledge signed by millions of American housewives: As a consumer, in the total defense of democracy, I will buy carefully. I will take good care of things I have. I will waste nothing.

Internationally, the United States has a low rate of both national and household savings, far below that of Western European countries, Japan, or China. This reflects, in part, the priority given by different states and individuals in the global community to savings and consumption, as well as adversity to debt.

While the study and theorization of consumption in the social sciences has been in existence for a long time, it has evoked the greatest interest in the decades of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. The growth in consumption, both nationally and globally, correlates with a rise in studies and publications on consumption, consumerism, overconsumption, and the transformation of modern societies from producers to consumers.

SEE ALSO Absolute Income Hypothesis; Conspicuous Consumption; Consumption Tax; Economics; Macroeconomics; Microeconomics; Permanent Income Hypothesis; Relative Income Hypothesis; Underconsumption

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bourdieu, Pierre. 1984. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. Trans. Richard Nice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Douglas, Mary, and Baron Isherwood. 1979. The World of Goods: Towards an Anthropology of Consumption. New York: Basic Books. Rev. ed. 1996. London: Routledge.

Duesenberry, James S. 1949. Income, Saving, and the Theory of Consumer Behavior. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Frank, Robert H. 1999. Luxury Fever: Why Money Fails to Satisfy in an Era of Excess. New York: Free Press.

Galbraith, John Kenneth. 1958. The Affluent Society. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Kilbourne, Jean. 2000. Cant Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel. New York: Free Press.

Marx, Karl. [18571858] 1973. Grundrisse. New York: Vintage. Packard, Vance. 1957. The Hidden Persuaders. New York: McKay.

Ritzer, George. 1999. Enchanting a Disenchanted World: Revolutionizing the Means of Consumption. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge. 2nd ed. 2005.

Schor, Juliet. 1998. The Overspent American: Why We Want What We Dont Need. New York: HarperPerennial.

Smith, Adam. [1776] 1991. The Wealth of Nations. New York: Prometheus.

Veblen, Thorstein. [1899] 1994. The Theory of the Leisure Class. New York: Penguin.

Daina S. Eglitis

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Consumption

CONSUMPTION

CONSUMPTION. It is not coincidental that the Latin word consumere, 'to use up', referring chiefly to food, has come to stand for the act of purchasing and using all variety of goods. This meaning developed at the same time that merchants succeeded in changing the nature of consumption in the course of the early modern period. In the early sixteenth century, consumption for the vast majority of people meant almost exclusively eating food, on which the bulk of most people's household income was spent. By the end of the eighteenth century a much greater proportion of people had become consumers in the modern sense of the word: 'those who use their income to purchase products for the satisfaction of desires beyond immediate needs'.

The most significant variables in this general pattern, the growth of consumerism, were class and geography. Those in the uppermost social strata had always been, to some extent, consumers. Even through the Middle Ages they purchased luxury items such as rare and exotic spices, silks and jewels, aromatic perfumes, and wine, but the range of goods available was fairly limited and they were always prohibitively expensive. City dwellers, despite expendable income, did not have many opportunities to indulge themselves. There simply was not that much to buy, and most Europeans did not have access to these goods due to the limitations of geography, poor roads, and scant international trade.

How and why early modern Europeans made the transition from a relatively meager material culture to one in which a significant number of people enjoyed true opulence depended on a number of factors. The growth of world trade, market-oriented agriculture, demographic growth and inflation, and urbanization were all key factors. So, too, was social mobility. Put simply, more people with lucrative professions had money to spend, and goods arrived more frequently and in greater volume. Competition among the ascendant classes and emulation of courtiers forced the elite to refashion themselves constantly and to invent new tastes in food, clothing, and luxury items. These extravagances kept both them and their tastes distinct from their social inferiors. Thus, fashions changed ever more quickly and high culture was definitively separated from popular culture.

A perfect example of this process was the popularity of spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and sugar. Originating in what is now Indonesia and India, and passing through the hands of many middlemen, such spices were extremely expensive, making them a perfect symbol of wealth to be consumed, literally. After direct trade routes to Asia were established by the Portuguese, spices were imported in much greater volume. The price did not come down as much as one might expect, however, because such things were rigidly controlled by the state, and the Venetian and Genoese merchants trading in the Mediterranean were not put out of business as quickly as is generally supposed. In any case, more people had access to spices and this significantly diminished their efficacy as markers of social status. The use of cinnamon and sugar, especially after the latter was grown commercially in the New World, was no longer the exclusive domain of the most wealthy and powerful. By the mid-seventeenth century, spices began to go out of fashion in elite cookbooks, and by the eighteenth they were increasingly banished to sweet desserts. Only pepper retained its status as a universal seasoning, but, like the other spices and sugar, it, too, eventually came down in price.

The growth of cities also had a major impact on patterns of consumption. The rural peasant dependent on subsistence agriculture was increasingly replaced by the entrepreneurial farmer who used capital-intensive methods to grow food for the market. The small holder was either converted into a wage laborer, in which case he became a consumer rather than a direct producer, or, in another context, he joined the teeming ranks of people who fled the countryside to seek work in cities. Cities are, by their very nature, consumer-oriented. In areas of urban concentration such as the Low Countries and Northern Italy, and around major cities such as London and Paris, the trade in foodstuffs was brisk due to the great demand. Just supplying cities with bread was a major industry and shortages could lead to riots. To prevent this, the state routinely fixed the prices of bread, passed laws to discourage grain speculation, and did everything it could to ensure a regular supply. In years of crop failure or famine, which struck nearly every decade, their efforts often proved futile.

These conditions were only exacerbated by demographic pressure. With the exception of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, most of Europe experienced a steady rise in population throughout the early modern period. This in turn put pressure on resources, driving prices higher and giving further incentives to food producers to expand their operations by moving onto marginal land and hillsides, draining marshes, applying fertilizers, and using crop-rotation systems. All these factors helped to make agriculture more commercial in nature, and, of course, fed the growing cities. Inflation also forced average consumers to spend a growing proportion of their household income on basic staples such as grains, making the average diet relatively poor in protein.

Cities were regularly supplied with meat and vegetables from the surrounding countryside, however. Imperishable items such as stockfish, cheeses, cured hams and sausages, dried pulses, and wine could all be imported from farther afield. In Northern Europe beer was increasingly brewed commercially and on a large scale rather than in the home, and was consumed in public houses or taverns. For poorer city dwellers, the bulk of the diet consisted of bread and starches, dairy products, and relatively durable vegetables such as cabbages and onions. Fresh meat, fruits, and vegetables were comparatively expensive and continued to be so throughout the period despite the growth of intensive cattle rearing and market gardening. Vegetables such as artichokes and asparagus, melons, and all manner of fresh fish retained their association as foods fit for nobles, and in Catholic countries, where Lenten restrictions were still in force, these could be extremely costly. Fresh game was also a valuable commodity, and small birds, rabbits, and the occasional boar or deer were highly esteemed foods served only on the best of tables.

What constituted good taste in refined circles also shifted dramatically in the course of the early modern period. In the beginning, a profusion of spices and a preference for sweet-and-sour dishes inherited from the Middle Ages still held sway. Variety and a great abundance of food served in multiple courses was the accepted way to impress guests. These features gradually gave way to smaller dishes, elegantly garnished and accompanied by sauces intended to accent rather than contrast with the main ingredient. The invention of a flour and fat-based roux lies at the core of what would eventually evolve into classic French haute cuisine in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Naturally, maintaining a kitchen staff with the requisite expertise and equipment also became necessary for anyone with a pretense to dining savoir faire.

The discovery of the Americas and linking markets around the globe also had a great impact on patterns of consumption. We tend to think first of American foods, such as potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers (capsicums), which would eventually transform European diet and food culture, but their use was limited until the late eighteenth century. Corn (maize) is the only possible exception to this rule as it caught on fairly quickly and was grown extensively in Southern Europe. More important were the luxuries introduced in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries: chocolate, tobacco, and, from Asia, coffee and tea. All these, along with the requisite utensils, became standard consumables in fashionable society. It has been suggested that hot caffeine-laden drinks were ideally suited to Protestant Northern Europe, where sobriety and working long hours were culturally embedded ideals. Whether this is the case or not, coffee and tea did eventually replace alcoholic beverages as the typical morning and midday drinks of choice, first among the wealthy and then, increasingly, among the working classes.

Colonial possessions of the Spanish and Portuguese in the Americas and Asia, and, in the seventeenth century, those of the Dutch, French, and English, provided markets for manufactured goods and also supplied raw materials to the mother country. Whether it was sugar grown on an enormous scale in the Caribbean or Brazil with slave labor, or cotton and rice in the English colonies, these products now entered the European markets. American drugs like cinchona bark and sassafras and dyes like cochineal also became valuable commodities. From Africa came gold, ivory, and slaves and, from Asia, along with spices, rare porcelain, which became the rage until Europeans discovered how to make it themselves in the eighteenth century.

Even the advent of table manners influenced patterns of consumption. Although adopted slowly and sporadically, the fork was eventually considered indispensable. Matching sets of silverware soon replaced the mismatched spoons and knives that diners often carried with them. Along with these developments, individual place settings replaced the more common platters from which medieval diners had plucked food with their fingers. Rather than a slice of bread or wooden trencher, plates of pewter, earthenware, porcelain, or, later, silver became significant investments for the average household. Wealthier homes would also have a collection of platters, basins, ewers for water and wine, and a great variety of serving vessels. Although matching sets were rare, the possession of these items conferred status on the owner, and they could, of course, always be pawned or, if silver, melted down in case of emergency. Napkins, which were usually large and draped across the shoulder, and tablecloths were also becoming ever more typical items among those who chose to dine politely.

Household furniture also proliferated in number and delicacy throughout the early modern period. From a rough bench and literally a "board" set on wooden trestles that could be moved from room to room, there soon appeared permanently fixed tables with turned legs, and elegant sideboards and cupboards on which to display the family tableware. Elaborate candelabra also became necessary as the time for dinner as the main meal of the day gradually shifted from midday to early evening. The dining room itself, as a separate, intimate room with one function, is an invention of the early modern period.

Beyond the dining room, the bedstead, linens, and chestsoften containing the wife's dowrywere also highly valued possessions. They were almost always listed in wills and household inventories, and their deposition after death was very carefully monitored. Even the pillows, bolsters, and blankets, sometimes the most valuable items listed in inventories, would be carefully preserved for the use of heirs.

Clothes, too, were considered important articles of property. While the average peasant or laborer might own only a few sets of clothing and only one suitable for special occasions, wealthy people could invest a serious fortune in doublets, hose, and starched ruffs for men, or jewel-studded brocades and silks for women. Domestically produced velvet, damasks, and satins were even exported to Asia. The fabric as well as the dyes used, not to mention the workmanship, made these extremely expensive items. The fur lining in the finest cloaks, something its possessors were proud to show off in portraits, may not have been merely a fashion statement. Unusually cold and erratic weatherwhat has been called the Little Ice Agebeginning in the late sixteenth century and extending into the eighteenth, may have actually made such items necessary.

One can see the small but expensive consumables that so entranced our early modern forebears by looking at still life paintings of the period. Beyond the lush vessels and glasses prized for their radiance, clocks, mirrors, books, writing implements, and musical instruments often clutter these canvases. Although they often figured some way in the memento mori ('remembrance of death') theme of these paintings, they were also possessions that people wanted to show off. So, too, were paintings themselves: whether portraits, devotional images, or genre scenes, they were something anyone with enough money sought to commission. Tapestries were also typical and valuable household items that served both as decoration and a way to prevent drafts. What is perhaps unique about the way such items were purchased and kept is that they became true collections. Some people sought out antique statues or cameos, others bronzes or strange and marvelous beasts that were amassed into "cabinets of curiosities." Connoisseurship became the true test of the refined gentleman, and, on the requisite grand tour, young men would begin their collections by scrounging up books and manuscripts, paintings, and other souvenirs from their trip through Europe. Ironically, just as the military role of the nobility was being ceded to the professional soldier, collecting arms and armor became one way to preserve one's heritage.

The growth of consumerism was fostered by several fiscal innovations that undoubtedly played a major role in the increased volume of trade. Although only fully functional toward the end of the early modern period, joint stock companies and stock exchanges, legally guaranteed limited partnerships and contracts, and insurance, not to mention more accessible forms of credit, all made trade a more reliable business venture. Trade became less of a wild gamble or "adventure" than a steady source of regular income. All this meant that more and more goods were available and affordable for the average consumer, but it would still be premature to label this society as consumer-oriented.

Among the factors that prevented this from becoming a truly consumerist society, perhaps the most important were the mental constructs of the period and the basic tenets of mercantilist theory and state policy based on them. Working under the assumption that wealth can only be generated by carrying goods abroad to obtain the highest price and having a favorable balance of exports over imports, European states imposed stiff restrictions and duties to check domestic consumption. Only if manufactured goods were sold abroad, they reasoned, would money flow into the country, bullion (precious metals) being the index of national wealth. To produce and consume goods domestically might shift the money around, but it could never generate wealth. By this logic, governments offered incentives to have goods shipped abroad, from surplus grain to woolens to cutlery and manufactured items. This effectively kept the supply low and prices high at home. Governments stimulated external trade by granting monopolies, chartering companies with exclusive privileges (the East India Companies are a good example of these, as are the colonial settlement charters), and by financing mercantile wars. Compounded with demographic pressure and inflation, this meant that most people never became full consumers until the industrial age, and that the goods that were consumed tended to remain expensive imported luxury items. For the wealthy few, Europe offered real opulence to which an increasingly large number of people had access, but for most people it would not be until the late nineteenth or early twentieth century that they became true consumers.

See also Capitalism ; Class, Status, and Order ; Clothing ; Commerce and Markets ; Food and Drink ; Grand Tour ; Industrial Revolution ; Industry ; Mercantilism ; Monopoly ; Trading Companies .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Burke, Peter. Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe. New York, 1978.

Cipolla, Carlo. Before the Industrial Revolution: European Society and Economy, 10001700. 3rd ed. New York, 1993.

Dalby, Andrew. Dangerous Tastes: The Story of Spices. Berkeley, 2000.

De Vries, Jan. Economy of Europe in an Age of Crisis, 16001750. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 1976.

Flandrin, Jean-Louis, and Massimo Montanari, eds. Food: A Culinary History from Antiquity to the Present. Translated by Clarissa Botsford. New York, 1999.

Foster, Nelson, and Linda S. Cordell, eds. Chilies to Chocolate: Food the Americas Gave the World. Tucson, 1992.

Glanville, Phillipa, and Hilary Young. Elegant Eating: Four Hundred Years of Dining in Style. London, 2002.

Jardine, Lisa. Worldly Goods: A New History of the Renaissance. New York, 1996.

Mennell, Stephen. All Manners of Food: Eating and Taste in England and France from the Middle Ages to the Present. Oxford and New York, 1985.

Mintz, Sidney. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York, 1985.

Musgrave, Peter. The Early Modern European Economy. New York, 1999.

Paston-Williams, Sara. The Art of Dining: A History of Cooking and Eating. London, 1993.

Schivelbusch, Wolfgang. Tastes of Paradise: A Social History of Spices, Stimulants, and Intoxicants. New York, 1992.

Visser, Margaret. The Rituals of Dinner: The Origins, Evolution, Eccentricities, and Meaning of Table Manners. New York, 1991.

Wheaton, Barbara Ketcham. Savoring the Past: The French Kitchen and Table from 1300 to 1789. New York, 1983.

Ken Albala

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ALBALA, KEN. "Consumption." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. 25 Jun. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

ALBALA, KEN. "Consumption." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. (June 25, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3404900262.html

ALBALA, KEN. "Consumption." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. 2004. Retrieved June 25, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3404900262.html

consumption

consumption, in economics, direct utilization of goods and services by consumers, not including the use of means of production, such as machinery and factories (see capital). Consumption can be divided into public and private sectors. Consumption is also viewed as a basically subjective phenomenon, with individual utility, or satisfaction, assuming primary importance. The foremost economist associated with the subjective view was Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832), whose English followers sought to measure quantitatively the utility provided by consumption. The process of consumption is central to any system of economics; Adam Smith made it the sole end of production. Production, the wholesale and retail trades, and consumption are closely linked, and the exchange of goods and services for money along the various stages from the producer to the ultimate consumer is the foundation of modern capitalist economy. In the 1930s, John Maynard Keynes introduced the influential theory of consumption function, which described the relationship between consumer income and consumption. Advertising and marketing are today the chief means by which manufacturers and retailers seek to increase consumption, leading many to contend that modern consumption is often governed by false needs. Such economists as Thorstein Veblen have tried to explain how advertising and marketing can affect consumer choices, where a number of different products are essentially the same. Contemporary economics has increasingly concerned itself with studying total consumption in an effort to implement effective government controls of the business cycle. Experience has shown that through taxation the modern government is often able to regulate the amount of its citizenry's disposable income, thus ultimately affecting the nation's total consumption.

See D. E. Nye and C. Pederson, Consumption and American Culture (1991).

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Consumption

CONSUMPTION


Consumption refers to the using up of goods and service by consumers. In fact, consumption of goods is considered to be the final step in the production process and the ultimate purpose of production. While the term consumption can include both capital consumption and nonproductive consumption, it generally is restricted to mean nonproductive consumption. Nonproductive consumption is when goods or services are not used in any further production processes. This is different than capital consumption, which refers to the use of goods and services to produce more goods and services. An example of capital consumption is the use of factory equipment to make products such as running shoes. Nonproductive consumption, on the other hand, occurs when individuals or families purchase personal-use items or services such as cars, computers, paper clips, or manicures. Governmental bodies can also engage in nonproductive consumption. An example of this might be the decision of a city or town to build a public facility, such as a school or library. Therefore, nonproductive consumption most often includes consumption by private individuals, social groups, and the public.

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"Consumption." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. 1999. Encyclopedia.com. 25 Jun. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Consumption." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. 1999. Retrieved June 25, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3406400204.html

consumption

con·sump·tion / kənˈsəm(p)shən/ • n. 1. the using up of a resource: we should reduce energy consumption. ∎  the eating, drinking, or ingesting of something: liquor is sold for consumption off the premises. ∎  an amount of something that is used up or ingested: a daily consumption of 15 cigarettes. ∎  the purchase and use of goods and services by the public: an article for mass consumption. ∎  the reception of information or entertainment, esp. by a mass audience: his memo was not meant for public consumption. 2. dated a wasting disease, esp. pulmonary tuberculosis.

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"consumption." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. 2009. Encyclopedia.com. 25 Jun. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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consumption

consumption (kŏn-sump-shŏn) n. any disease causing wasting of tissues, especially (formerly) pulmonary tuberculosis.
consumptive adj.

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"consumption." A Dictionary of Nursing. 2008. Encyclopedia.com. 25 Jun. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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consumption

consumption See tuberculosis

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"consumption." World Encyclopedia. 2005. Encyclopedia.com. 25 Jun. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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consumption

consumptionashen, fashion, passion, ration •abstraction, action, attraction, benefaction, compaction, contraction, counteraction, diffraction, enaction, exaction, extraction, faction, fraction, interaction, liquefaction, malefaction, petrifaction, proaction, protraction, putrefaction, redaction, retroaction, satisfaction, stupefaction, subtraction, traction, transaction, tumefaction, vitrifaction •expansion, mansion, scansion, stanchion •sanction •caption, contraption •harshen, Martian •cession, discretion, freshen, session •abjection, affection, circumspection, collection, complexion, confection, connection, convection, correction, defection, deflection, dejection, detection, direction, ejection, election, erection, genuflection, imperfection, infection, inflection, injection, inspection, insurrection, interconnection, interjection, intersection, introspection, lection, misdirection, objection, perfection, predilection, projection, protection, refection, reflection, rejection, resurrection, retrospection, section, selection, subjection, transection, vivisection •exemption, pre-emption, redemption •abstention, apprehension, ascension, attention, circumvention, comprehension, condescension, contention, contravention, convention, declension, detention, dimension, dissension, extension, gentian, hypertension, hypotension, intention, intervention, invention, mention, misapprehension, obtention, pension, prehension, prevention, recension, retention, subvention, supervention, suspension, tension •conception, contraception, deception, exception, inception, interception, misconception, perception, reception •Übermenschen • subsection •ablation, aeration, agnation, Alsatian, Amerasian, Asian, aviation, cetacean, citation, conation, creation, Croatian, crustacean, curation, Dalmatian, delation, dilation, donation, duration, elation, fixation, Galatian, gyration, Haitian, halation, Horatian, ideation, illation, lavation, legation, libation, location, lunation, mutation, natation, nation, negation, notation, nutation, oblation, oration, ovation, potation, relation, rogation, rotation, Sarmatian, sedation, Serbo-Croatian, station, taxation, Thracian, vacation, vexation, vocation, zonation •accretion, Capetian, completion, concretion, deletion, depletion, Diocletian, excretion, Grecian, Helvetian, repletion, Rhodesian, secretion, suppletion, Tahitian, venetian •academician, addition, aesthetician (US esthetician), ambition, audition, beautician, clinician, coition, cosmetician, diagnostician, dialectician, dietitian, Domitian, edition, electrician, emission, fission, fruition, Hermitian, ignition, linguistician, logician, magician, mathematician, Mauritian, mechanician, metaphysician, mission, monition, mortician, munition, musician, obstetrician, omission, optician, paediatrician (US pediatrician), patrician, petition, Phoenician, physician, politician, position, rhetorician, sedition, statistician, suspicion, tactician, technician, theoretician, Titian, tuition, volition •addiction, affliction, benediction, constriction, conviction, crucifixion, depiction, dereliction, diction, eviction, fiction, friction, infliction, interdiction, jurisdiction, malediction, restriction, transfixion, valediction •distinction, extinction, intinction •ascription, circumscription, conscription, decryption, description, Egyptian, encryption, inscription, misdescription, prescription, subscription, superscription, transcription •proscription •concoction, decoction •adoption, option •abortion, apportion, caution, contortion, distortion, extortion, portion, proportion, retortion, torsion •auction •absorption, sorption •commotion, devotion, emotion, groschen, Laotian, locomotion, lotion, motion, notion, Nova Scotian, ocean, potion, promotion •ablution, absolution, allocution, attribution, circumlocution, circumvolution, Confucian, constitution, contribution, convolution, counter-revolution, destitution, dilution, diminution, distribution, electrocution, elocution, evolution, execution, institution, interlocution, irresolution, Lilliputian, locution, perlocution, persecution, pollution, prosecution, prostitution, restitution, retribution, Rosicrucian, solution, substitution, volution •cushion • resumption • München •pincushion •Belorussian, Prussian, Russian •abduction, conduction, construction, deduction, destruction, eduction, effluxion, induction, instruction, introduction, misconstruction, obstruction, production, reduction, ruction, seduction, suction, underproduction •avulsion, compulsion, convulsion, emulsion, expulsion, impulsion, propulsion, repulsion, revulsion •assumption, consumption, gumption, presumption •luncheon, scuncheon, truncheon •compunction, conjunction, dysfunction, expunction, function, junction, malfunction, multifunction, unction •abruption, corruption, disruption, eruption, interruption •T-junction • liposuction •animadversion, aspersion, assertion, aversion, Cistercian, coercion, conversion, desertion, disconcertion, dispersion, diversion, emersion, excursion, exertion, extroversion, immersion, incursion, insertion, interspersion, introversion, Persian, perversion, submersion, subversion, tertian, version •excerption

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"consumption." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. 2007. Encyclopedia.com. 25 Jun. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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