A Social and Economic Theory of Consumption by Kaj Illomen

By Kaj Illomen

Kaj Ilmonen was once a pioneer within the 3rd wave of the sociology of intake. This book provides a balanced evaluate of the sociology of intake, arguing that the keenness of 'the 3rd wave' exaggerated the function of the symbolic and imaginary on the cost of the materiality of human societies.

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The assumption in neo-liberal economic theory of the existence of an anonymous self-interested economic agent is not only problematic but itself calls for an explanation. The same goes for the notion of calculation as espoused by economic theory: it requires elaboration. A common criticism against this thinking is that market agents rarely have such an intimate knowledge of the markets that they are able to conduct rational calculation. Besides, the accuracy of those calculations declines in direct proportion to increasing uncertainty.

The Trobrianders were engaging not in an exercise in economy but in the maintenance of social relations (see Graeber 2001). Malinowski’s observations from the Trobriand Islands are not unique nor of course can they be generalized to Europe. To be sure, some mechanisms of exchange have evolved even among the Islanders with the growing division of labour – but we must not make the same mistake as Ludwig von Mises, Herbert Spencer and Walter Lippman and confuse the existence of a division of labour with exchange and exchange trade.

G. 12 Bounded rationality, investment in networks and related trust, has the effect of pushing up transaction costs, as does the lack of trust, which is manifested in corruption. However, these factors are often missing both from economics’ models and from understandings of the markets (Smart 1999, 175–176). Even in the stock exchange, where money knows no morality, investment decisions are based on ritualistic customs and interpretations of information gathered from social networks. 13 The aim of the decision is obviously not to achieve a Pareto optimum at the overall level of the national economy, but to keep the decision-makers, in one way or another, involved in the market game (Beckert 1996, 821).

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