As a broad brush, the account of Miller et al. has much to commend it. But, not surprisingly, it is far too neat and tidy, leaving as many questions unposed as answered. In particular what is the timing of this periodisation (and can three stages be squeezed into two decades), and does it fit equally across disciplines and topics? Although the study of consumption across the social sciences may have exhibited some changing emphases and postures, it can also be interpreted as having become increasingly chaotic, not least because the progress identified by Miller et al. is far from uniform or complete across the literature, with successive stages supplementing rather than displacing one another. Not everyone can be in, let alone recognise, the analytical vanguard. Even those that have been in the lead in some respects are capable of straddling the divides posited by Miller et al., as in Ritzer's (1993, 1998) successive contributions, ultimately leading to a brutally frank stages-defying amalgam within a single contribution let alone across the literature as a whole (Ritzer 1999a: 76):5
In the end, this is not a work in postmodern theory, or any other theory for that matter. The goal is to gain a greater understanding of the new means of consumption and to that end theoretical tools that work will be employed, whatever their origins. In order to create the theoretical framework for this book, I have borrowed the ideas of exploitation, control, rationalization, and disenchantment from modern social theory and the notion of reenchantment from postmodern theory. This book offers what the postmodernists call a 'pastiche' (a mixture of sometimes seemingly contradictory ideas) of modern and postmodern ideas in order to analyze the cathedrals of consumption. The latter, of course,
If periodisation within the study of consumption is questionable, a notable neglect in Miller et al. is consideration of the broader intellectual context as if the study of consumption has experienced a self-contained inner momentum of its own. But its evolution, as is at least implicit in their account, has depended upon a much broader renegotiation across the social sciences of the relationship between what might be conveniendy termed economy and culture, although other oppositions are represented and representative, not least production and consumption. Thus, Ashkenazi and Clammer (2000) acknowledge how consumption has been at the forefront of the study of material culture in view of its bringing together a number of core and classical themes - gender, class, critical theory, mass society - and new themes such as media studies, popular culture and the ethnography of conformity and resistance in everyday life. The study of consumption emerged during, out of, and as a major part of the rise of postmodernism. The social sciences are now, unevenly and variously, on retreat from its excesses. What exacdy has this all entailed?