Consumer studies

Date of publication: June 15, 1989


Even though it is usual practice to refer to "the consumer" when speaking about consumption behaviour - and it would be unrealistic to propose any other word - there can be no real understanding of what is new in this area without at least considering whether the term "consumer" is really appropriate. If it were merely a question of terminology, there would be little point in such a reconsideration; but the fact is that this simplification lies at the heart of the trivialisation which has traditionally characterised consumer studies - to the extent that (as classical economists used to do) it is assumed that economic activities, even at a micro-economic level, are all based on absolutely rational models. The outcome is that the "consumer" becomes a very particular type of individual - created by means of a sort of parthenogenesis, following a curiously singular scotomization of the individual tout court. And it is assumed that he has always behaved on the extremely rational basis of objective cost/benefit evaluations. In reality, as we all know, consumption forms only a part of individual and social activity (although probably a major part of all everyday behaviour).

Giampaolo Fabris


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