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July 24, 2010


Juan Espinosa

Nice way to put it!
Good to see the performativist economic sociology explaining and be explained by the Newyorkers way of life.

Dick Pountain

Really interesting post. The anthropology/psychology of consumption is pretty
underdeveloped because economists have been so firmly in the saddle in recent decades. As you hint in your first link, this territory is what "mildly smug French deconstructionism" purports to explore, but does nothing of the sort. My own hunch is that the key lies in Thorstein Veblen (now entirely ignored) who questioned classical homo economicus by introducing a more plausible psychological component. The truth will lie somewhere in the gap between Marx, Freud and neuroscience, but no-one yet has put the jigsaw together.

Will Davies

Dick - I think you're being a little unkind to the French here. Thanks to Callon, Cochoy, Muniesa and others, we now have detailed anthropological and technological portraits and analyses of how markets function as constructed institutions. Rose and Miller (Foucauldians) also have quite a nice piece on the mobilisation of 'consumers' by psychologists and the Tavistock programme. I especially recommend Cochoy's work on shopping environments.

Marx and Freud... I guess this was partly what the Frankfurt School were doing, and I imagine their heirs must still exist somewhere, working on consumption. Whether neuroscience is part of the mix, I'm less certain. At some point, it could contribute to the construction through the input of the (still entirely nascent) neuro-marketing industry.

Dick Pountain

Will - the input from neuroscience is already primed to go. Current popular accounts are all focussed on how much of human behaviour is hardwired, which is not interesting and mostly wrong. However affective neuroscience is uncovering the small set of basic "engines" responsible for the emotions (not feelings), and showing how they are intimately involved in reasoning and intentionality. Once properly understood this will transform psychology (in the way that Freud predicted but couldn't achieve). It's lack of this knowledge that leaves the French poststructuralists and the Franfurters fumbling around in the verbiage.

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