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A Theory Of Shopping Essay

A Theory of Shopping offers a highly original perspective on one of our most basic everyday activities - shopping. We commonly assume that shopping is primarily concerned with individuals and materialism. But Miller rejects this assumption and follows the surprising route of analysing shopping by means of an analogy with anthropological studies of sacrificial ritual. He arA Theory of Shopping offers a highly original perspective on one of our most basic everyday activities - shopping. We commonly assume that shopping is primarily concerned with individuals and materialism. But Miller rejects this assumption and follows the surprising route of analysing shopping by means of an analogy with anthropological studies of sacrificial ritual. He argues that the act of purchasing goods is almost always linked to other social relations, and most especially those based on love and care.

The ethnographic sections of the book are based on a year's study of shopping on a street in North London. This provides the basis for a sensitive description of the issues the shopper confronts when making decisions as to what to buy. Miller develops a theory to account for these observations, arguing that shopping typically consists of three major stages which reflect the three key stages of many rites of sacrifice. In both shopping and sacrifice the ultimate intention is to constitute others as desiring subjects. Finally the book examines certain historical shifts in both subjects and objects of devotion, in particular, ideals of gender and love.

This treatment of shopping from the perspective of comparative anthropology represents a highly innovative approach to one of the most familiar tasks of our daily lives. Written in a clear and accessible manner, this book will be of interest to students and academics in anthropology, sociology and cultural studies, as well as anybody who wants to consider more deeply the nature of their own everyday activities....more

Paperback, 192 pages

Published April 1st 1998 by Polity Press (first published 1998)

The butt of endless jokes and the focus of considerable anguish, shopping offers significant insights into contemporary social relations and their nuances. This book is about shopping for ordinary things. It is also about love and devotion manifest within families and about the nature of sacrificial ritual. A significant contributor to material culture studies, Daniel Miller is an acute observer and an exceptional storyteller. He approaches shopping not as an end in itself but as a means to discover what people's practices, closely observed, reveal about their relationships.

The ethnographic sections of the book are based on a year's study of shopping on a street in North London. This provides the basis for a sensitive description of how shoppers develop and imagine the social relationships most important to them through the medium of selecting goods. Among the characteristics of these shopping expeditions are the concept of "the treat," and the centrality of thrift. Miller juxtaposes on his account of shopping various theories that anthropologists have brought to bear on the ritual of sacrifice, including that of the French philosopher George Bataille. He then integrates these elements to postulate his theory of shopping as sacrifice in terms as original and as utterly engaging as the stories he tells of individual shoppers.

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