Is a Sustainable Consumer Culture Possible?
This chapter takes an approach to consumer culture that is quite different from my chapter in the fi rst edition. The original chapter, “Consuming Ourselves to Death,” argued that anthropologists have a wealth of knowledge about consumer cultures that should be applied to the task of making consumption more sustainable. I gave examples of some relevant kinds of anthropological work, particularly among the many anthropologists who now work in business schools and market research. I urged caution in making sweeping moral arguments about good and bad forms of consumption, which have a tendency toward ethnocentrism and “blaming the victim.” This chapter takes a different approach, questioning the category of consumption itself, suggesting that the term is profoundly cultural and is structured by metaphor. The tools we anthropologists use for cultural analysis are therefore crucially important in the quest for sustainability. As many of the contributors to this new collection have pointed out, cultural constructions of climate change are a necessary part of our toolkit in crafting solutions that will actually work.