chapter  12
18 Pages

Consumption in the context of social provisioning and capitalism: beyond consumer choice and aggregates


Introduction Frederic Lee has made a case for weaving various heterodox approaches into a distinctively heterodox coherent model of the capitalist economy. He constructs a model of the economy as a whole that incorporates the social surplus approach along with the stock-flow consistent modeling, Chartalist state money theory, input-output matrix analysis, the social fabric matrix (see Hayden 2006), and the methodological articulation of the symbiotic relationship between structure and agency. Obviously, Lee exemplifies a heterodox economist who draws from a variety of heterodox traditions and methods while working towards the construction of a coherent and realistic theory of a capitalist economy. In doing that, he deems the split between microeconomics and macroeconomics as misguided and unrealistic (Lee 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012). Analysis of aggregates cannot provide a view of the economy as a whole, and micro is not limited to individual units of analysis, but studies those in order to obtain a better understanding of the whole economy (see also Jo’s chapter in this book). Thus, if consumption is to be approached as one of the aspects of the social provisioning process, it can be viewed as a process itself-that is, consumption is more than an aggregate variable or outcome of individual consumer choices. The present chapter builds on Lee’s conception of the economy as a whole and discusses consumption as a process that is part of social provisioning under capitalism. Lee’s (2011) heterodox model manifests linkages among essential components of the economy as a whole: that is, (1) history and the social fabric are linked to the economic model of the social provisioning process, (2) agency is linked to structures, and (3) social provisioning is linked to social activities. The concept of social process facilitates such theorizing of the economy. The first section introduces the concept of social provisioning while stressing some analytical differences this conceptualization makes for theorizing consumption. The second section delineates a number of features of the capitalist economy that affect analyses of consumption. The third section discusses consumption as a social process. Finally, the chapter concludes by drawing implications for heterodox economics.