9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN05 Sociology of Consumption

2009-09-05 15:30:00 2009-09-05 17:00:00 Saturday, 5 September 15:30 - 17:00 Economic and Political Aspects of Consumption Building II, C5.02

Consumption and contemporary distinction

With this paper, we intend to present and discuss the results of a quanti-qualitative research project, concerning the contemporary relation between consumption and perceived social distinction. This investigation was developed during our PhD research at ISCSP-Universidade Técnica de Lisboa.
We shall identify and understand relevant criteria for distinguishing social strata in the perspective of the everyday life consumer, paying special attention to distinctive consumer practices. A lot has been written about the importance of consumption tastes and habits to both structural and post-modern stratification patterns, but social scientists have been neglecting social agents´ perspectives and rankings. Can portuguese ways of regarding social distinction confirm a global and cultural-prone consumption point of view, according to international investigations, or are there still some resistances and particularities that should be taken into account?
We applied a web-based questionnaire and several in-depth interviews to a sample of 546 middle-class individuals aged between 19 and 45 years, living in two portuguese different areas (Lisboa, the two-million inhabitants capital and Leiria, a coastal area medium-sized town), with comparative purposes, between July 2007 and March 2008.
Findings show that consumption is one of the most important and effective contributors for the perception of social distinction. It can be noted that consumption practices assume different roles as ?materialism? and ?intellectualism? traces are detected: material and conspicuous aspects tend to be more considered by provincial-town respondents, while cultural consumption, scholarship, technology and leisure seem to be more important on establishing distinction among metropolitans. If, on one hand, Lisboa seems close enough to European and American consumption and stratification trends, on the other hand international crisis and the growth of unemployment may as well bring back the old-fashioned importance of pecuniary strength.