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The consumer society: Has the signification of the product become more important than its functionality?

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Introduction

The consumer society: Has the signification of the product become more important than its functionality? This paper aims to provide an explanation for the consumption of certain commodities for their signification, rather than their function. To illustrate the importance of commodities, the emergence of football as a middle class spectator sport will be analysed. This essay will try to illustrate what the processes are behind the changes in football spectatorship, as in recent years football crowds have become more diverse in relation to their class. Typical views surrounding the influence of the middle classes within football spectatorship, has centred on economic reasons stating that the working classes were effectively 'priced out of the market'. However, through the work of Baudrillard a different more subtle interpretation can be illustrated. This view shows that working class values have changed, and as a consequence of the consumer society, the working classes ultimately consume commodities to signify a higher status. Therefore, it can be theorised that the consumption of football spectatorship is simply a reflection of the changing values and behaviour that underpins the working classes. To understand the processes behind class spectatorship at football matches, firstly an explanation of the theories which underpin consumption must be provided. Consumers are essentially individualistic and have the same needs and desires; this is how economic theory explains the demands of consumers. However, it can be argued that this assumption is wrong and misleading, since not all consumers have the same needs and desires. ...read more.

Middle

'The dominant class constitutes a relatively autonomous space whose structure is defined by the distribution of economic and cultural capital among its members, each class fraction being characterised by a certain configuration of this distribution to which there corresponds a certain life style, through the mediation of the habitus' (Bourdieu, 1984, p260). This illustrates how people in society are involved in a dynamic process. Trends originate in the higher echelons of society, and in an effort to simply demonstrate that an individual possess a high cultural capital, they will emulate the upper classes. However, as mentioned this is a dynamic process so the upper classes will never be caught up, they will have moved on to a new trend by the time the old one has filtered down to the lower classes. Although, this dynamic process highlights the downfalls within Baudrillard's analysis of society, as Baudrillard's theory fails to accommodate for trends originating with the working classes and rising up the social ladder. Baudrillard states that the working class consume commodities associated with the upper classes to signify a higher societal status. However, Baudrillard's work does not acknowledge that trends can originate within the working classes and then become popular. Certain trends within society illustrate that trends do not simply trickle down the social ladder, but they can also ultimately rise up the ladder. As this is a relatively new perspective, the amount of research surrounding this phenomenon is almost non-existent. ...read more.

Conclusion

The kind of world they create together is constructed from commodities' (Douglas & Isherwood, 1979, p14). Therefore, through the use of Baudrillard's work it can be theorised that the working classes were not replaced, but through many different processes within society their values and behaviour was. So, if supporters adopt the new commercialised version of football, along with it they adopt the values of the middle classes. However, it must be noted that much care needs to be attributed to the issues surrounding class spectatorship, as modern commercialised football could be going down a path of destruction. Some in the working classes do not wish to signify a higher status whilst watching football, they would rather have their old form of working class football, prior to the commercialisation of the sport. It can be argued that as a consequence of this the working classes have set about a de-humanising of the sport. As many believe that a consequence of the commodification of football is football hooliganism 'Football hooliganism is best understood as a working-class resistance movement. Bourgeoisification, the process against which the resistance is directed' (Taylor, 1971; Cited in Dunning et al, 1988, p25). Therefore, it has emerged that issues surrounding class spectatorship at football matches, is an area that needs much further research. A theme which was evident throughout this study was the lack of empirical research, consequently no true conclusions could drawn surrounding class spectatorship. Therefore, any attempts at determining conclusions of class spectatorship would be dangerous, until further research is conducted. ...read more.

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