Vol. 9, No. 2, May 2008

Connoisseurs of Consumption:
Gay Identities, and the Commodification of Knowledable Spending
Sam Binkley
newsletter designer
Emerson University

Dan Cook
Rutgers University- Camden

George Ritzer
long-time, dedicated supporter
University of Maryland-College Park

Mike Ryan
listserv manager
University of Maryland—College Park

Statement of Purpose
The organizing group for the Consumer Studies Research Network seeks to foster dialogue and debate among those who are interested in and concerned about the place of goods and commodities in social life. These interests and concerns may range from the poetics of micro/personal identity formation to the identity politics of gendered, raced and classed display, from historical work on the rise of consumer culture to a critique of Nike advertising, from investigations of typical places of consumption to the study the dynamics of globalization and urban areas. Individuals affiliated with the Consumer Studies Research Network desire to bring to the fore, in their own ways, the depths to which commodities and a market logic have come to pervade virtually all forms of social life and social interaction. The primary goal is to begin to engage in an interchange.


Dan Cook
Consumer Studies Research Network
Rutgers University
405-7 Cooper Street
Camden, NJ 08102
phone: 856-225-2816
fax: 856-225-6435

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by Michael J. Yaksich
University of Maryland

Portrayals of gay men as pioneers of fashion illustrate the role of consumer capitalism in the shaping of social identities (Hennessy, 1994; Valocchi, 1999; Chasin, 2000; Gross, 2001; Walters, 2001; Sender, 2004; Gamson, 2005). As a gay man, it is difficult to escape from being associated with ‘knowing how’ to shop....

So when did I, or any other gay male, transform into a shopping expert? The assumption that my subjectivity as a gay individual is tied not only to consumption, but knowing how to properly consume, raises questions around the relationship between consumer capitalism and homosexuality.


CRSN Conference Program

ASA ConsumptionSesssions

Books of Note

On The Cultural Logic of Ethical Capitalism

by Nicki Lisa Cole

University of California, Santa Barbara

Today, the concepts of ethical capitalism and corporate social responsibility have become mainstream in the United States. Ideas about the regulation of pollution and emissions, fair labor practices and human rights, and the nuances of cultivation and production of goods are prevalent in society, as are  goods marketed based on these ideas. Today one can find goods certified fair trade, organic, sustainable, sweatshop free, or eco-friendly, as various as food, beverage, tobacco, flowers and plants, clothing and shoes, jewelry, art and hand-crafts, paper and plastic goods, car tires, automobiles, and bombs and ammunitions. When Wal-Mart carries it, mass saturation has been reached.

Though not always framed and executed as critical acts by consumers, the purchasing of such products reflects a particular stance on the dominant mode of capitalism that structures social relations around the globe. More specifically, the market for ethical goods reflects critique of the social and environmental conditions generated by the current system of capitalism.  In this essay I argue that ethical capitalism is emerging as a new dominant mode of capitalism, which suggests shifts in the cultural logic of capitalism, to borrow a phrase popularized by Frederick Jameson (2000). What are these shifts? And what is their significance?

To contemplate this we must begin by recognizing that ultimately, morality is at the heart of this matter. It is the desire to breathe morality back into the relations of production and consumption that sparked ideas and practices of ethical capitalism and consumption. I use the phrase “breathe back into” because historically, morality was extracted from the system of economic exchange. I argue that ethical capitalism reflects a desire to reinsert morality, and also importantly, the recognition of a market for this virtue.


Cultural Capital: Between Taste and Participation
by Tally Katz-Gerro (tkatz@soc.haifa.ac.il) and Meir Yaish myaish@univ.haifa.ac.ilUniversity of Haifa

Bourdieu's (1987 [1979]) theorization of cultural capital treats attitudes, preferences, and behavior as forms of embodied cultural capital. As such, these are often considered parallel forms of embodied cultural capital that receive different empirical manifestations in various works (Lamont and Lareau 1988), without attention to the implications of choosing one operationalization of cultural capital over another. In this essay we focus on two dominant measures of cultural capital in research on cultural consumption: cultural tastes, which represent preferences and cultural participation, which represents behavior. We argue a need to clarify the theoretical distinction between the two by thinking of preferences as antecedents of behavior.

The literature on cultural consumption can be described as following three paths. First, studies that have used either cultural tastes or cultural participation as interchangeable indicators of cultural capital (e.g., Peterson 2005; Sullivan and Katz-Gerro 2007). Second, studies that have used tastes and participation in tandem without expecting them to perform differently ...


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