Summary: Consumption and Theories of Practice.

Alan Warde (Singularising) “This article considers the potential of revival of interest in theories of practice for the study of consumption.” The act of consumption as a practice that takes engagement, appropriation of services, appropriate tools and devotion of attention. Looking for “theoretical consolidation” of consumption rather than repeating research that focuses on objects. Symbolic meanings and their role in the construction of self-identity. Posing the question, what do people do and feel as well as mean by their consumption? p.133 Reckwitz (2002) “rejects analysis based on models of either homo economicus or homo sociologicus” and attempts to justify the cultural phenomenon of consumption via theory of practices: Rational mentality as well as following society norms and understanding “necessary cultural basis for the existence of practices”. –       Practice (praxis) describes the whole of human action rather than just theory or thinking. –       A Practice (Pratik) in the social theory of this article is a routinised type of behaviours consisting of mental and physical activities, objects and their use, background knowledge and emotional knowledge. Practices include doing and saying. They are “coordinated entities, but also require performance for their existence.” p.135 Theories of practice tend to be “idealised, abstract and insufficiently attentive to the social process” in the formation of a person enacting a practice. The article attempts to explore practices rather than theories of practice in analysing consumption. p.137 “most practices and probably all integrative practices require and entail consumption.” “Practices rather than individual desires … create wants.” The “performance” of a practice depends on the element of social differentiation. Different classes, different levels of education predicts the procedures and values of consumption and objects consumed. p.140 “Performances of the same practice are not always the same” p.141 “People in myriad situations adapt, improve and experiment.” In pursuit of variety as is human nature we collect and adopt practices. This diversity of engagement has economic consequences for consumption. “Wants are fulfilled only in practice.” As variation grows it becomes harder to stamp signs and symbols onto objects and for people to interpret them. “Because practices have their own distinct, institutionalised and collectively regulated conventions, they partly insulate people/consumers from the blandishments of producers and promotional agencies.” p.144 “An individual pattern of consumption is the sum of the moments of consumption which occur in the totality of his or her practices.” “Changing positions within practices may be narrated in terms of changing forms of consumption, whether objects or experiences.” p.145 “…Consumption occurs within and for the sake of practices.” Theories of culture and sub-culture have not been addressed. Neither have the rules for “determining the boundaries of a practice.” Consumption display has a limited ability to communicate, hence its main role is still the “pursuit of use-values”. p.148 “In other words, no matter where a practice fits in a hierarchy of prestige, there are internal goods to be derived from its for individual practitioner.” What type and combination of types of practices are there? Thoughts: This article is hard! It took me ages to understand what Warde is talking about and I’m still not entirely sure.

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Faculty of Media & Communication, Bournemouth University