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2018/19 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

SLSP3930 Sociology of Consumerism

20 creditsClass Size: 90

Module manager: Dr Mark Davis

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2018/19

Pre-requisite qualifications

At least 20 credits at Level 1and 2 (40 in total) from a social science related discipline or the appropriate discovery theme.

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

Drawing upon a tradition of critical theory, the module will cover such topics as: conspicuous consumption and celebrity culture; shopping malls and the commercialization of public space; consumerism and social exclusion; new technologies and digital shopping; advertising and marketing in society; experiences of the night-time economy; credit cards and indebtedness; consumer choice and 'moral markets'; and the possibility of consuming ethically.


The aim of the module is to introduce students to the field of sociology of consumerism, in order to foster a critical approach to this dominant mode of being in the contemporary social world. Students will become familiar with a range of sociological perspectives on consumerism as an ideology and consumption as a practical aspect of everyday lives. The principal aim is to critically assess the degree of 'free choice' that consumerism offers individual men and women in their everyday lives.

The objectives can be summarised as follows:
1. To introduce students to key debates in the sociology of consumerism;
2. To encourage students to engage critically with questions around consumer society;
3. To reflect upon ways in which social identities are increasingly linked to consumerism;
4. To explore relationships between societal and cultural values in creating and maintaining the drive to consume.

Learning outcomes
By the end of this course the students will be familiar with:
1. Key concepts in the sociology of consumerism literature and be introduced to the main contributors in this area.
2. The relationship between consumerism and identity formation.
3. Critical perspectives on consumerism as a form of ideology.
4. A range of substantive areas of consumerism, such as music, art, fashion, 'ethical / organic foods' etc, that have been the site of sustained sociological analysis.

Skills outcomes
This module will enable students to apply a range of conceptual devices drawn from the discipline of sociology to analyse consumerism as a form of culture and a mode of being-in-the-world.

It will develop skills of critical thinking through participation in lectures, seminars and writing.

It will foster students' ability to explore both the insights and limitations of concepts of consumerism.


We use a range of sociological perspectives to examine critically the notion of consumerism as a dominant way of life in contemporary society and that lead us to confront our own behaviour as consumers. In other words, because each of our lives are so intimately linked with our shopping habits, the module may make you confront your own behaviour and attitudes as consumers and some may find this a little discomforting.

The module explores the various ways in which consumerism impacts upon, and shapes our perception of, the everyday social world, involving: the importance of status-anxiety in driving consumer behaviour; how consumerism can be seen both as a form of freedom and a means of social control; how consumerism can be understood as a new form of religion in secular societies; how individual and group identities are understood and expressed through the embracing of, or resistance to, dominant modes of consumerism; how consumerism is a form of social inclusion / exclusion; and, how our lives are tending evermore towards simulated experience in the technologically-driven virtual worlds of the consumer society.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours179.00
Total Contact hours21.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Private study will involve researching the given and wider literature within the sociology of consumerism field. Reading lists will be provided to aid this study, but students will be proactively encouraged to explore other relevant areas as part of the development of their research skills.

Students will be expected to prepare for each of the lecture topics prior to the lectures themselves, to aid with knowledge and understanding, and before each of the seminar sessions. This will enhance their time management, research skills, initiative, and planning and organising, further developing their capabilities as independent learners.

In preparing literature reviews as part of their on-going assessment, in preparing for the end of module examination, and in preparing for group discussion in seminars, students will improve their written and interpersonal communication skills, and have the opportunity to further augment their analytical and critical capacity.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Attendance at seminarsand participation and engagement during seminars. Ongoing feedback, encouraged and facilitated through open door meetings.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay1 x 5,000 words100.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 21/12/2018


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