Summary: The sacred and the profane in consumer behaviour, Belk, Wallendorf & Sherry

The sacred and the profane in consumer behaviour: Theodicy on the odicy. Belk, Wallendorf and Sherry. Journal of consumer research Vol 16 No.1 (1989) p1-38.   The observations in their research make it apparent that consumption involves more than the means by which people meet their everyday needs. Consumer behaviour exhibits certain aspects of the sacred. Sacred: something religious or something loved/feared. Whatever the motive, the same deeply moving, self-transcending feelings are the same. Something can also be defined as being sacred through a social process that brings a system of meaning to individuals, resulting in social cohesion. Potentially, sacred consumer domains fall into 6 major categories:
  1. Places
  2. Times
  3. Tangible things
  4. Intangibles
  5. Persons
  6. Experiences
It is also interesting how a particular consumption becomes and remains sacralized:
  1. Sacralization through ritual
  2. Sacralization through pilgrimage
  3. Sacralization through quintessence
  4. Sacralization through gift giving
  5. Sacralization through collecting
  6. Sacralization through inheritance
  7. Sacralization through external sanction
Sacredness exists on a cultural level to ensure the ongoing integrity of the culture itself. According to Harrington (1983): Western society needs transcendence. Consumption has become such a transcendental vehicle for money.


Faculty of Media & Communication, Bournemouth University