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The Unmanageable Consumer

Third Edition


August 2015 | 280 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

The Unmanageable Consumer has long been one of my favorite books in the sociology of consumption. This long overdue third edition has updated and revised the basic argument in many ways. Most importantly, it now offers a new chapter on the consumer as worker or, more generally, the prosumer. Assign it to your classes (I have…and will again) and read it for your edification.’ - George Ritzer, Distinguished University Professor, University of Maryland, USA

Western-style consumerism is often presented as unstoppable, yet its costs mount and its grip on consumer reality weakens. In this 20th Anniversary edition, Gabriel and Lang restate their thesis that consumerism is more fragile and unmanageable than is assumed by its proponents.

Consumerism has been both stretched and undermined by globalization, the internet, social media and other cultural changes. Major environmental threats, debt, squeezed incomes and social inequalities now temper Western consumers' appetite for spending. The 20th century Deal, first championed by Henry Ford, of more consumption from higher waged work looks tattered. 
 
This edition of The Unmanageable Consumer continues to explore 10 different consumer models, and encourages analysis of contemporary consumerism. It looks at the spread of consumerism to developing countries like India and China and considers the effects of demographic changes and migration, and points to new features such as consumers taking on unwaged work.

New to this edition:

  • Coverage of new phenomenon such as social media and emerging markets
  • Explores contemporary topics including the occupy movement and horsemeat scandal
  • A new chapter on the consumer as worker.

 

'This is a remarkable and important book. The new edition updates consumer cultural studies to take into account austerity politics and the economic crisis, and the impact these have had on how we think about and experience everyday practices of shopping and consuming. The authors also build on and maintain the lively and challenging argument from the previous volumes which sees the consumer as an unstable space for a multiplicity of often contradictory responses which can unsettle the various strategies on the part of contemporary capitalism to have us buy more.' - Angela McRobbie, Goldsmiths, University of London

‘The book exemplifies how social science should be: engaged, insightful, imaginative, scholarly and highly socially and politically relevant. Strongly recommended to students, academics as well as all people interested in understanding our time and themselves in an age of consumerism and false promises.’ - Mats Alvesson, Professor of Business Administration, Lund University, Sweden

 
The Emergence Of Contemporary Consumerism
 
The Consumer As Chooser
 
The Consumer As Communicator
 
The Consumer As Explorer
 
The Consumer As Identity-Seeker
 
The Consumer As Hedonist
 
The Consumer As Victim
 
The Consumer As Rebel
 
The Consumer As Activist
 
The Consumer As Citizen
 
The Consumer As Worker
 
The Unmanageable Consumer

The Unmanageable Consumer has long been one of my favorite books in the sociology of consumption. This long overdue third edition has updated and revised the basic argument in many ways. Most importantly, it now offers a new chapter on the consumer as worker or, more generally, the prosumer. It also takes into account the fact that consumption, better hyper-consumption, is not only still with us, but if anything it is accelerating. The continued increase in hyper-consumption and the rapidly changing nature of consumption/prosumption, as well as their relationship to one another, make this edition more relevant than ever. Assign it to your classes (I have… and will again) and read it for your edification.

George Ritzer
Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland

This is a remarkable and important book. The new edition updates consumer cultural studies to take into account austerity politics and the economic crisis, and the impact these have had on how we think about and experience everyday practices of shopping and consuming. The authors also build on and maintain the lively and challenging argument from the previous volumes which sees the consumer as an unstable space for a multiplicity of often contradictory responses which can unsettle the various strategies on the part of contemporary capitalism to have us buy more. The volume by Gabriel and Lang will be of great value to Masters students and undergraduates as well faculty across a range of humanities and social science courses.

Angela McRobbie
Goldsmiths, University of London

The book exemplifies how social science should be: engaged, insightful, imaginative, scholarly and highly socially and politically relevant. Strongly recommended to students, academics as well as all people interested in understanding our time and themselves in an age of consumerism and false promises. This is a book that almost everyone would benefit from reading.

Mats Alvesson
Professor of Business Administration, Lund University, Sweden

This book is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding one of the most complex and multifaceted concepts of our time: the idea of the consumer. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Mark Tadajewski
Professor of Marketing, Durham University Business School, UK

Through ten diverse and intriguing “portraits” of the consumer, the authors have somehow combined academic rigour with topical insights and appropriately provocative challenges. In all sorts of ways, The Unmanageable Consumer is a surprising delight!

Jonathon Porritt
Co-founder of Forum for the Future and former chair of the UK Sustainable Development Commission

Engagement with this book should certainly be encouraged across the disciplines. This is because despite the books’ social-scientific tone and academic relevance, the authors continue to balance their account of the tightly coiled interrelations of the [discussed] themes and phenomena with a pertinent yet accessible unpacking of how their complex formation is central to consumerism’s ongoing and intensified centrality to the narratives in and of our everyday lives.

Peter Watt, Department of Management, York St John University
Management Learning

Sample Materials & Chapters

Introduction: The Faces of the Consumer


Preview this book

Yiannis Gabriel

Yiannis Gabriel is Professor of Organizational Theory at Bath University. Yiannis has a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Imperial College London and a PhD in Sociology from the University of California, Berkeley.  Yiannis is well known for his work into organizational storytelling and narratives, leadership, management learning and the culture and politics of contemporary consumption. He has used stories as a way of studying numerous social and organizational phenomena including leader-follower relations, group dynamics and fantasies, nostalgia, insults and apologies. He has also carried out extensive research on the... More About Author

Tim Lang

Tim Lang has been Professor of Food Policy at City University's Centre for Food Policy since 2002. With a PhD in Social Psychology from Leeds University he became a hill farmer in Lancashire, North of England, in the 1970s. Over the last four decades he has engaged in public and academic research and debate about food policy: what sort of food system do we want? What do we mean by progress? He has written and co-written 10 books and many reports and papers on the trends, problems and policy frameworks in the food system. A constant theme is how public health, environment, social justice and consumer rights do and don’t connect. Besides his... More About Author

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