Advancing the Production/Consumption Dialectic in Consumer Culture Theory Co-chairs

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Nov 12, 2013 (3 years and 4 months ago)


ACR 2009

Advancing the Production/Consumption Dialectic in Consumer Culture Theory


Ahir Gopaldas, York University, Schulich School of Management

Sarah JS Wilner, York University, Schulich School of Management


Extended Abstract

The purpose of this roundtable is to provide a forum for interdisciplinary researchers to discuss
new concepts, frameworks, and theories that can reformulate

and advance the study of the
production/consumption dialectic in consumer culture theory (CCT). Though the concepts of
production and consumption are defined diversely within and across the disciplines of
anthropology, consumer research, cultural studies,

economics, marketing, sociology, and media
studies, they are widely understood in opposition to one another. However, the relative emphasis
on production, consumption, or hybrid conceptualizations has always been contingent on
sociohistoric conditions. Fo
r example, as capitalism and globalization matured through the 20

century, both business practice and social theory gradually de
privileged production and divided
their attention between production and consumption in more equal measure. This trend roughl
coincided with shifts from modern ideologies and mass production to postmodern ideologies and
market segmentation (Cohen 2004; Firat and Venkatesh 1995; Zhou and Belk 2008).

CCT has a long history of considering production, in addition to consumption, in its analyses (for
a review, see Arnould and Thompson 2005). Within CCT, it is often argued that the
production/consumption dialectic structures intra
person (e.g. Tian and Bel
k 2005: work
self/home self

person (e.g.

Thompson and Coskuner
Balli 2007

and inter
group (e.g.

Giesler 2008) identities and activities. Long
standing questions about cultural construction,
reproduction, opposition, and transformation in the mark
et sphere remain at the heart of
contemporary CCT research: How do dominant cultural producers transform the cor
e ideologies
of a society (e.g.

Zhao and Belk 2008)? How do marketers employ mass
mediated and micro
cultural discourses to craft compelling off
erings and reformulate historic
al discourses in doing so

Thompson and Tian 2008)? How do producers imagine and interpellate consumers an
consumption communities (e.g.

Cayla and Eckhardt 2008; Kozinets 2008)? How do producers
and consumers negotiate
the (dis)junctures of market
and social logics (e.g.

Giesler 2008;
Thompson and Coskuner
Balli 2007; Tian and Belk 2005)? The agenda of this roundtable may
be articulated accordingly:

What underexplored and unexplored concepts, frameworks, and theories ca
n help researchers
explicate the myriad intersections of production and consumption in practice?

Which contexts, informants, and phenomena are appropriate for investigating these

What insights can be gleaned from production/consumption resea
rch not only for theory, but
also for consumer empowerment, political engagement, and social justice?

Exploring new theoretical directions to explicate this domain of research is

for a number of reasons. First, the production/consump
tion dialectic is at the core of CCT and its
sibling fields of interpretive consumer research (for a review, see Cova and Elliott 2008),
consumption anthropology (for a review, see Miller 1995), consumption sociology (for a review,
see Zukin and Smith Magu
ire 2004), and critical marketing studies (for a review, see Saren et al.
2007). What all these fields share is an interest in how market logics are produced, reproduced,
opposed, and transformed by cultural, economic, political, and social forces, both wi
thin and
beyond the marketplace. Accordingly, the production/consumption dialectic gives an extensive
network of scholars a node to link their sometimes complementary, sometimes contradictory
trajectories of scholarship.

Second, the production/consumption

dialectic links to numerous other dialectics that shape the
agenda of CCT. For example, the dialectic links to the supply/demand dialectic in economic
discourse, the management/marketing dialectic in business discourse, and the work/spend (Schor
1991) or
work/life (Tian and Belk 2005) dialectics in social discourse. To advance the reach of
CCT, it would behoove consumer culture theorists to challenge such discursive divides and forge
links with compatible theorists in other areas of the business academy (e
.g. critical management
studies [Alvesson and Willmott 1992]) with whom we share critical and interpretive research
agendas and domain boundaries.

Third, along with structure/agency theoretics and identity politics, the production/consumption
has inspired increasingly sophisticated understandings of production and consumption
and their multi
level (institutional and individual) and multi
sphere (cultural and economic) roles
in social reproduction and transformation (

Bourdieu 1984; Giddens

1991; Ritzer 1993).
These interlinked understandings of production/consumption, structure/agency, and identity
politics are not universal but situated resolutions to theoretical debates. For example, while
marketing researchers have proposed that the serv
dominant logic of co
production is a substantive merger of production and consumption logics (Vargo and Lusch
2004), consumer researchers have argued that these concepts are rhetoric bandages over a
sustained divide between the production o
f exchange
value (i.e., production) and th
e production
of use
value (i.e.

consumption) (Humphreys and Grayson 2008). It is through a cycling of such
dialectic discussions, syncretic conceptualizations, and reformulated dialectics that business
practice and

theory evolves in society and the marketplace (Giesler 2008).


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Cayla, Julien and Gianna Eckhardt

(2008), “Asian Brands and the Shaping of Transnational
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Journal of Consumer Research
, 35 (August), 216

Cohen, Lizabeth (2003),
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Cova, Bernard
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Firat, Fuat A. and Alladi Venkatesh (1995), "Liberatory Pos
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of Consumption,"
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Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age
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, Ashlee

Grayson (2008), “The Intersecting Roles of Consumer and
Producer: A Critical Perspective on Co
Production, Co
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