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'You just wear what you want don't yer'? an empirical examination of the relationship between youth consumption and the construction of identity

Miles, Steven (1996) 'You just wear what you want don't yer'? an empirical examination of the relationship between youth consumption and the construction of identity. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

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    Abstract

    The social scientific debate over consumption is of increasing concern to
    commentators addressing the cultural implications of socio-economic change.
    All too often, however, the individual meanings that consumers have for the
    goods they consume have been neglected by these commentators, notably in
    favour of abstract discussions of the role of consumption in the emergence of
    a 'postmodern' culture. Arguing that consumption provides the sociologist
    with an invaluable means of addressing questions concerning the relationship
    between structure and agency, this thesis attempts to move beyond the
    limited conception of a fragmented self, picking and choosing his or her
    identity from the menu of life, to begin to establish an empirical grounding
    for the relationship between consumption and identity amongst young
    people. Data were collected from a triangulated three-stage research process,
    in the form of a series of focus group interviews, informed by Personal
    Construct Psychology, a participant observation study in a sports shop, and a
    Consumer Meanings Questionnaire. Arguing that young people's identities
    are largely constructed in peer group settings, the evidence presented
    suggests that consumption provides an everyday cultural framework, within
    which young consumers negotiate some semblance of everyday stability in a
    'risk' society. In this sense, young people appear to pursue a dual task. First,
    they are intent upon forming group-based identities. Second, they attempt to
    construct a sense of individuality in this context. Hence, it is argued that
    whilst young people choose consumer goods according to peer group
    meanings, they tend to see their own choices as 'individual' and those of their
    peers as being determined by media and marketing-created desires. As such,
    whilst it would be misleading to see young people as dupes of the capitalist
    system, neither are they free agents. Teenagers construct their identities
    partially through the framework that consumption provides, but not with
    products of their own choosing. Far from being whimsical consumers in this
    context, I argue that essentially, young people are modernists, adapting to the
    rational constraints upon their everyday lives and changing the character of
    their consumption patterns accordingly. The situated realities of so-called
    postmodern forms of consumption can therefore only be understood, it is
    argued, through innovative triangulated research methods which address
    consumer meanings in routine everyday settings and which, in turn, consider
    the theoretical implications of such meanings, for both an understanding of
    the ideological impact of consumerism and it's relationship to debates
    concerning structure and agency.

    Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
    Additional Information: EThOS Persistent ID uk.bl.ethos.338607
    Uncontrolled Keywords: Consumerism, Postmodernism, Sociology, Human services, Psychology, Sociology
    Subjects: H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
    H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
    Schools: School of Human and Health Sciences
    Depositing User: Graham Stone
    Date Deposited: 18 Jun 2009 12:21
    Last Modified: 28 Jul 2010 19:38
    URI: http://eprints.hud.ac.uk/id/eprint/4750

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