Science, Tech, Math › Social Sciences All About the Sociology of Consumption Why We Consume and Why It Matters Share Flipboard Email Print Social Sciences Sociology News & Issues Key Concepts Major Sociologists Deviance & Crime Research, Samples, and Statistics Recommended Reading Psychology Archaeology Economics Environment Ergonomics Maritime By Nicki Lisa Cole, Ph.D. Sociology Expert Ph.D., Sociology, University of California, Santa Barbara M.A., Sociology, University of California, Santa Barbara B.A., Sociology, Pomona College Dr. Nicki Lisa Cole is a sociologist. She has taught and researched at institutions including the University of California-Santa Barbara, Pomona College, and University of York. our editorial process Twitter Twitter LinkedIn LinkedIn Nicki Lisa Cole, Ph.D. Updated March 18, 2017 Buying and consuming are things we do everyday and probably take for granted as a normal, often mundane, though sometimes exciting part of life. But when you look beneath the surface of these universally common activities, as we sociologists like to do, you see that consumption and the central role that it and consumer goods play in our lives is about much more than simply meeting material needs. Find out here how sociologists study these topics, and why we believe that they are among the most important topics for research. 01 of 16 What is the Sociology of Consumption? Peathegee Inc/Getty Images What is the sociology of consumption? It is a subfield that places consumption at the center of research questions, studies, and social theory. Find out what kinds of research sociologists conduct within this subfield here. 02 of 16 How Do Sociologists Define Consumption? Chicago resident Sharon Szafoni and her 5-year-old son Mathew shop in the bulk-foods aisle with a large grocery cart March 8, 2002 in a Costco Wholesale store in Niles, IL. Tim Boyle/Getty Images Consumption is not just about purchasing and ingesting. Find out why sociologists believe that consumption has social and cultural purpose and value, as well as what is at stake in the activity. 03 of 16 What Does Consumerism Mean? First day of the IPhone 6 and IPhone 6 Plus release in Spain with the firsts buyers in the Barcelona's city Apple Store, September 26, 2014. Artur Debat/Getty Images What does consumerism mean? How is it different from consumption? Sociologists Zygmunt Bauman, Colin Campbell, and Robert Dunn help us understand what happens when consumption becomes a way of life. 04 of 16 What is a Consumerist Culture? Nicki Lisa Cole What does it mean to live in a consumerist culture? And why does it matter that we do? This article addresses this concept, developed by sociologist Zygmunt Bauman, and some of the consequences of living this way. 05 of 16 Is it Possible to Be an Ethical Consumer? Part 1 Ecologically sustainable laundry service in Brussels, Belgium. Nicki Lisa Cole What would it mean to be an ethical consumer in today's world? This article addresses the environmental and social issues behind consumer goods that must be overcome. 06 of 16 Is it Possible to Be an Ethical Consumer? Part 2 Occupy Wall Street protestors in New York City, October 2011. Leepower Despite our best intentions, there are quite a few pitfalls and limitations to the idea of shopping for change. Find out what those are here. 07 of 16 Why Apple's Brand is the Secret to Its Success Apple's iPhone 6S, released in September 2015. Apple, Inc. What's in a brand? A study of Apple's reveals what makes it so powerful economically and culturally. 08 of 16 What is Cultural Capital? Do I Have It? C K Ltd/Getty Images Pierre Bourdieu developed one of the most important theoretical concepts in sociology: cultural capital. Click to learn all about it, how it relates to consumer goods, and how it affects your life. 09 of 16 Why Marketers Need 'Manliness' to Sell Scarves to Men A sociologist reflects on why some men think that wearing a scarf is "gay," and why there is a campaign to make scarves "manly." 10 of 16 What Are the Human Costs of iPhone? SACOM dropped a protest banner at the launch of the iPhone 6 at an Apple Store in Hong Kong, September, 2014. Bloguerilla Apple's iPhone is one of the most beautiful and technologically advanced on the market, but it comes with a significant human cost throughout its supply chain. 11 of 16 Why We're Not Really Doing Anything About Climate Change An overflowing trash can in New York City. Miguel S. Salmaron/Getty Images Climate scientists have been telling us for decades now that we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions, yet they rise every year. Why? The allure of consumer goods has a lot to do with it. 12 of 16 What's the True Price of Chocolate? Luka/Getty Images How does chocolate get made, and who is involved in this global process? This slide show provides an overview, and a look at the hidden costs behind chocolate. 13 of 16 How to Keep Child Labor and Slavery Out of Halloween Chocolate Cocoa pods are seen on the Ivory Coast stand during the Salon du Chocolat at Parc des Expositions Porte de Versailles on October 30, 2013 in Paris, France. Richard Bord/Getty Images Child labor, slavery, and poverty have no place in our Halloween candy. Find out how choosing fair or direct trade chocolate can help. 14 of 16 11 Fascinating Facts About Halloween Halloween masks are offered for sale at Fantasy Costumes on October 28, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. Scott Olson/Getty Images Facts about Halloween spending and activities, from National Retail Federation, with some color sociological commentary about what it all means. 15 of 16 What Thanksgiving Reveals About American Culture James Pauls/Getty Images According to sociologists, overeating on Thanksgiving is an act of patriotism. Say what?! 16 of 16 Christmas by the Numbers A round-up of what we did, how we spent, and our environmental impact this Christmas.