Keywords: consumerism, individual theories, social practice theories, structural theories, sustainable consumption, sociology, environmental impact, sustainability, lifestyle change, sustainable development
Towards a sociology of consumerism
Despite concern over the environmental impacts of consumerism, there is a little theoretical coherence into the topic. We present a review of theoretical work from the social sciences to move towards a sociology of consumerism. Few sociological theories address sustainability so we draw from a broad array of literature from Baudrillard (1998) [Baudrillard, J. (1998) The Consumer Society: Myths and Structures. London, UK: Sage] to Veblen (1994) [Veblen, T. (1994) The Theory of the Leisure Class. New York, NY: Dover Publications.]. For instructive purposes, we divide the theories presented into three approaches: structural, individual and social practices. A structural approach considers social norms, built infrastructure and political economic conditions that can exacerbate consumerism. The individual approach focuses on the individual motivations to consume, while the social practices approach integrates both structural and individual perspectives to focus explicitly on how consumerism can result from our daily routines. Ultimately, we argue that social practice theories have the greatest potential to consider lifestyle change toward more sustainable routines.