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Sociology Seminar with Stephen Healy

Date: 24 January 2012 Time: 16:30 -18:00

Venue: FASS MR 2

Towards a genealogy of consumption: materiality, technology and affect

Although 'homo economicus' is a perennial target of those contesting contemporary capitalism/industrial society, this impoverished creature - subtly disguised - tends to reappear in some of the most incisive contemporary critiques. This seminar outlines key elements of a project intended to redress this failing.

The first of these concentrates upon how, and why, 'homo economicus' became inscribed into our world while the second examines the other than human ways in which this 'inscription' is instantiated. The former emphasises how the assembly of 'homo economicus' involved a "considerable narrowing of the field of enquiry over which social thought had ranged freely", relative to before Adam Smith's 'Wealth of Nations' - particularly with regard to the affective dimensions of life. The latter focuses upon the co-constitutive relationships between people and things around which much contemporary consumption revolves.

While starting with relatively discrete objects such as tables, chairs, knives and folks, and the protocols attaching to their use, these relationships are now more fundamentally pervasive. From familiar world-shaping accomplishments such as electricity and automobility, through to the emergent, such as the novel socialities generated by continuing innovations in information and communication technologies, the heterogeneous complexity of the material culture of contemporary consumption remains a largely unexamined domain.

The concluding discussion speculates on the implications of this analysis for those most concerned to make things otherwise - examining, in particular, the affect(less!) dimensions of contemporary consumption.

Stephen Healy (University of New South Wales)


Who can attend: Anyone


Further information

Organising departments and research centres: Centre for Mobilities Research (CeMoRe), Centre for Science Studies, Sociology

Keywords: Consumption, Technology


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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Lancaster University
Lancaster LA1 4YD
United Kingdom

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