A short ethnography of twenty-first century consumers: On retail rage and one-dimensionality

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This article begins with two central ideas – that feelings of rage appear to be on the increase in present modernity and that one of the main sources of rage is directly linked to consumer culture and the retail experience it fosters. Although retail trade allows twenty-first century individuals to spend their money on material goods and experiences which provide structure and a sense of meaning and belonging, what it also causes is ambivalence, insecurity and anxiety. These are formidable feelings that cause irritation, frustration and anger to gradually fester until it accumulates into something violent that distorts the way an individual thinks, acts and treats other people. With these points in mind, what this article provides is a thorough sociological interpretation of twenty-first century retail rage. Veering away from existing interpretations of rage by drawing on Herbert Marcuse’s analysis and image of a one-dimensional society, what this article explores is the idea that retail experiences turn people into individuals who are bound and controlled by a consumer duty. As I contend, based on my unique position as a researcher turned retail worker, it is this administered, one-dimensional kind of lifestyle that cultivates rage. To support my argument and understand more comprehensively how and why retail breeds frustration and anger, I use a selection of narrative episodes to unpack three key sources of consumer rage in the twenty-first century. These sources have been labelled instantaneity, performativity and unfulfillment.




Bingham, K. P. (2021). A short ethnography of twenty-first century consumers: On retail rage and one-dimensionality. Journal of Consumer Culture. https://doi.org/10.1177/14695405211039614

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