9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN05 Sociology of Consumption

2009-09-03 13:30:00 2009-09-03 15:00:00 Thursday, 3 September 13:30 - 15:00 Consumption as Distinction Building II, C5.01

Class, Cultural Capital, and Consumer Identity. Practices of Wine Consumption

Several scholars in consumer research (Russell W. Belk) and social theory (Anthony Giddens,
Ulrich Beck, Zygmunt Bauman) have stressed the importance of consumption for the
construction and enhancement of subjective identities in contemporary societies. This means,
however, that everyday decisions about what to buy and to consume are loaded with affective
and normative meaning, which may lead to stress and anxiety related to consumption. Warde
has forcefully argued against such a perspective and has emphasized that traditional class and
income-based restrictions are still important for consumption, so that the relationship between
consumption and identity formation should not be overestimated. Furthermore, contemporary
consumption practices and decisions are usually grounded in social networks and lifestyle
patterns. Therefore, even identity relevant consumption decisions usually do not have
embarrassing or anxiety-enhancing consequences. Up to now, there has not been much
empirical research addressing this important theoretical controversy.
This paper deals empirically with this discussion in the sociology of consumption based on a
standardized survey of wine consumption practices in Germany. The survey data enable us to
assess the importance of wine consumption practices for the construction and enhancement of
subjective identity on the one hand and the relevance of feelings of anxiety and
embarrassment concerning consumption choices on the other. Furthermore, we analyze
empirically the influence of class, different forms of cultural capital, social networks and life
style on wine consumption practices and their consequences for subjective identity and
feelings of anxiety.