An assignment written by Monique Jean Louw 28121288 The Theory of Affluenza within the Discourse of Globalism for the

module VKK 410 Prof E Dreyer University of Pretoria Faculty of the Humanities Department of Visual Arts 2011-06-20

TABLE OF CONTENTS Page LIST OF FIGURES................................................................................................ 1. INTRODUCTION................................................................ ................................ 2. GLOBALISM AS DISCOURSE......................................................................... ..... 3. A SOCIETY RIDDEN WITH THE AFFLUENZA VIRUS........................................... . 4. SEMIOTICS OF CONSUMPTION....................................................................... . 5. APPLIED ARTISTS.............................................................................. ................ The Affluenza Project............................................. ............................ ... Alex Ostrowski.......................................... ............................................. Barbara Kruger................................................................... ................... FLOWmarket....................................................................... .................. Andreas Gursky............................ ....................... .............................. ..... 6. CONCLUSION.................................................................................. .................. SOURCES CONSULTED.................................................................... ................... i i 1 2 5 7 8 8 8 11 13 16 18 19

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.. 2006... FLOWmarket.. ....... Alex Ostrowski..... Alex Ostrowski.............. 99 Cent...................... .... 2008.. 2006.................... Life-enjoyment........... ................... 2008... FLOWmarket.................. .... .... Alex Ostrowski.... I shop therefore I am..... Self-love.................................. Happiness from within.....................LIST OF FIGURES Page Figure 1: Figure 2: Figure 3: Figure 4: Figure 5: Figure 6: Figure 7: Figure 8: Figure 9: Figure 10: Figure 11: Alex Ostrowski........................ 2006................. .... FLOWmarket........ ..................... 1987.......... detail 3 of The Happiest Book.................. detail 2 of The Happiest Book........ Andreas Gursky..... 9 10 10 11 12 14 14 15 15 15 16 ii ...... FLOWmarket............ ... 2008............. the FLOWmarket shop in New York...................... The Happiest Book. ...... Barbara Kruger..................... 2006... 1999....... 200..................................... No worries........ detail 1 of The Happiest Book.......... FLOWmarket.... .......... 2008...................................

feel valuable and the chase after what it takes to be admired and how these ideologies came to be manifested within a sickened society. 1 . then an explanation and a discussion on Globalism as a discourse will follow by focussing on how media. Barbara Kruger (1945). plays a role in propagating ideas within Globalism to understand the affect on our way living. an exhibition held in London in 19 -28 March 2009. There will be a discussion of the Affluenza Project. FLOWmarket. and the work of three contemporary artists who showcased in the exhibition. The effects of the virus will be discussed as well as t he semiotics of consumption.1. The assignment will explore Globalism as a discourse and how the theory of Affluenza is applied within the discou rse. There will also be a discussion of the artist Andreas Gurskey s (1955) work in the 'Shopping . firstly giving an explanation of what the term affluenza mean and how it is evident in our global society . and society affected by media. which was an exhibition on show at Tate Liverpool in February/ March 2001. An analyses and interpretation of four contemporary artists whose work shows the influence of Globalism will suffice as examples of affluenzic values within globalism This assignment concern the emotional and mental effects of trying unconsciously to be be tter . INTRODUCTION The main focus of this assignment is the theory of Affluenza within the discourse of Globalism. These artists are Alex Ostrowski (1962). There will first be explained what is meant by the term discourse .a century of art and consumer culture'. The argument will show how our society is ridden with the affluenza virus.

According to McCrew (1992:23).. a discourse is the condition of a social practice and agency (Foucault 2000:sp). economic. Phillips and Hardy (2002:3) argues that social reality is produced and made real through discourses. It describes the process by which events. Globalisation does not only predominantly refer to the global economy and its external influences on the international liberating of economies and communication (Backhaus 2003:6).2.. and activities in one part of the world can come to have significant consequences for individuals and communities in quite distant parts of the globe .a result of the increasingly (spatially and temporally) distanciated consequences of everyday actions. The term globalization has been u sed since the1960s and academically since the 1980s (Teubner 2004:6). Wiesmann & Schertenleib 2003:3) argues that globalism is a discourse entailing political. It is therefore neither goal-oriented nor an external force. 2 . Globalisation has to be understood as an aggregation of intended as well as unintended consequences of actions. Globalism will now be discussed as a discourse. In the 80s it was meant as the expanding free market and more recently with reference to the political and the cultural (Teubner 2004:6). Giddens (1995:10) defines Globalization as . social and cultural issues globally too.. Discourses are passed on through time and are constantly shaped and interpreted because they are not fixed and unchang ing (Backhaus 2003:8). NCCR North-South (Hurni. decisions. and it can be at the same time homogenising as well as fragmenting. GLOBALISM AS DISCOURSE According to Michel Foucault. Globalization refers to the multiplicity of linkages and interconnections between the states and societies which make up the modern world system. It is a process that not only comprises economic activities but virtually every aspect of people s lives. Discourses are established when they are practiced and related to (Backhaus 2003:8).. and social interactions cannot be fully understood without reference to the discourses that give them meaning .

Glob alism could also be seen as a worldwide system of hegemony for example McDonaldisation. the globalisation of technology. movies. markets and hugely by cultural globalization (Backhaus 2003:11). Americanisation or even the English language (Backhaus 2003:7). These processes contribute to the changing character of a discourse and the diversity of what is social reality (Backhaus 2003:10). knowledge makes it easy to access information about better markets and about better and cheaper products (Backhaus 2003:10-11). magazines. The barrage of cultural messages received by an augmenting public are disseminated by all media (TV broadcasts. People s choice of living is influenced by production. Through these cultural messages people adapt to the globalisation of perception and 3 . They are successful through people s integration into global production processes by means of indoctrinated desire. capital moves around the world constantly and even at a significant faster pace in the last two decades. This leads to mechanical sufficiency and the reduction in human resourcing where job insecurity is consequential . music) and controlled by global corporations (Backhaus 2003:11). the globalisation of markets and market strategies where businesses are subjugated to integration and standardisation within production (Backhaus 2003:10). Consequences are sometimes intended or unintended. Some of the processes worth mentioning is the globalisation of finance and capital holdings . newspapers. and cannot always be consciously accounted for or controlled (Backhaus 2003:7). and taking no action also has a reaction (Backhaus 2003:7). The process that is most relevant to the focus of this assignment is the consumer behaviour and life styles. service availability.Norman Backhaus interprets Giddens definition as every action has a reaction. There are may different processes within a discourse and within Globalism. Every person contributes to Globalism and is part of Globalism. wants a nd fragmented needs in shaping identity and belonging to a group or community be cause of the dissemination of these cultural messages. books.

as in many other discourses. one solid definition and meaning of Globalism remains contested. What are the affects of media and how does it affect our behaviour towards ourselves? Does consumerism affect only what we buy or does it commodify us as well. This larger society can be identified within the borders of capitalism where every thing tangible and non-tangible is assigned a value to be exchanged or to be used as a method of measurement. entertain. but for the purpose of this argument the above will suffice to now link the discourse of Globalism with the concept of Affluenza. Media and communication play the vital role in the 21 st century. in the time of globalism and technology (Teubner 2004:105). do we also become products to have a value ? To conclude. a society of commodities and consumerism (Seibert. 4 . a society always already concerned with currency. Economic and cultural globalization arguably would be impossible without a global commercial media system to promote global markets and to encourage consumer values (Teubner 2004:105) . beliefs. Seibert s (1963) Propaganda model theory states that media s function is to amuse. and inform. Peterson & Schramm 1963:1). and to influence individuals values.consciousness that is homogenising even if there is a conflict in interest when people are confronted with messages that go against their own cultural identity and norms (Backhaus 2003:10). The knowledge about this controversy is enough to make people more conscious of their own culture and to adapt traits of other cultures even if it is not intended (Backhaus 2003:11). and behavioural codes that will result in them integrating successfully into the institutional structures of the larger society.

5 . Keeping up with the Joneses is for the average middle-class person is not a goal that s within reach anymore. According to James people whose values are shaped by this virus are at risk of depression. the homes depicted by reality shows and plastic surgery shows on how to improve yourself and so forth (America s Crazed Consumerism 2001:[sp]). We live our lives productively and not always qualitatively. a ppearances (physical and social) and fame (James 2003:xiii). The ideas we use to interpret our existence are questionable. media and advertisements that we are confronted with has meant keeping up with more improbable and wealthy Joneses. A SOCIETY RIDDEN WITH THE AFFLUENZA VIRUS Men of wealth and success are surrounded b y affluence that constitutes alienation from one another (Baudrillard 1970:255 ). Our hopes and dreams are dip ped in flavours of capitalism. billboards and magazines daily. home improvement shows. Today s Joneses is not the next door neighbour but it s the fictional characters we see o n our screen . but the functionality of yet another product between the sea of thousands. MTV Cribs . According to Schor (2004: 9).3. Baudrillard makes the comparison of the wolf-child that becomes wolf by living among them and how we are becoming functional ( 1970:255). James defines the Affluenza Virus as placing of a high value on money. clothes worn by the Desperate Housewives. television. We have become obsessive about measuring the worth of our lives to others lives through the distorted lens of Affluenza values. contemplating another man s possessions and living with a lifestyle obsession makes us the by-products of capitalism. We are constantly surrounded by materials of all kind. we constantly try to keep up with the Joneses . sponsored clothes of local productions. substance abuse and personality-disorders (James 2007:xiv). But the functionality referred to here i s not the self-sufficient functionality of an individual living meaningfully and contently. The Affluenza-virus is a term coined by Oliver James. anxiety. the author of the book Affluenza: How to be Successful and Stay Sane (2007). possessions.

how nice a package we are? Do we believe that our internal lacks can be fixed by an external means? 6 .The fast growth of capitalist commodity production. The satisfaction from consumer goods is directly linked to the displaying and sustaining of difference and individuality through the seduction of products or lifestyles either manifested in an individual or witnessed by an individual. dreams and desires originating from capitalist commodity production generate bodily excitement and aesthetic pleasures that are based on the principles of Affluenza (Featherstone 1991:13). Emotional pleasure of consumption (of products connotations or ideas of how to live life). Our responsibility remains to question what the roots are of our desires. especially in the last century. dreams and pleasures and if it results in long term fulfilment or short periods of satisfaction quickly turning into dissatisfaction. Are our needs replaced by confected wants which we did not know we have? Are we regarding ourselves as objects in a personality market . kindled with consumer culture is responsible for the accumulation of material culture in the form of consumer goods. purchase and consumption giving way to ideological indoctrination deeply rooted within the culture of contemporary Western societies (Featherstone 1991:13).

THE SEMIOTICS OF CONSUMPTION The investigation of the affluenzic ownership of materials as a way of defining one s self image and communicating it to others (Belk 1986. When Tylor addresses the fight club he says that what he sees is an entire generation pumping gas. clothes. Pragmatically.working jobs we hate so we can buy [crap] we don t need (Fincher 1999). Consumer culture suggests that there s always room for self-improvement and self-expression. as a matter a fact. Thus an object s functionality is not w hat concerns us. the choice of clothing is an intention to express and communicate yourself to oth ers (Holbrook & Hirschman 1993:15).4. Clothing s most important function isn t to cover your body but to act as a signifier of this is who I am . We make our lifestyle a project of aestheticization of everyday life to display individuality and identity through the assemblage of goods. experiences. they start to own us a s Tylor says in the film Fightclub (Fincher 1999). appearances and bodily dispositions (Featherstone 1991:86). or so we are lead to believe by advertisement. What is being investigated is the social counter or signal denoting status and financial worth and why this type of worth is worthy of worry at all (Burnham 1973: 179).. media and the way people implement these notions all around us. and other ac tivities.. By looking at a person s clothes we can connote so much about them. clothing or anything we add to our bodies. where the common 7 . furnishings. home. practices. doesn t help us shape our identity but as we own objects. decoration. Csikszentmihalyi & Halton 1981. it is instead the objects virtue. Isherwood 1979). Baudrillard argues that whatever man lacks is invested in the object (1996:82). accessories. We become a mere extension of that which wears us. Holbrook and Hirschman propose that clothing as an example is semantically charged with cultural signifieds and status. People s use of consumer goods has its own set of de -coding structure. and the symbolic meaning implications for social status and other cultural attributions is a semiological construct. this leaves us always wanting. Affluenza is a harmful/unbalanced relationship with the representation of identity through one s choice of clothes. It doesn t stop there.

where a products virtue is of great significance (Featherstone 1991:85). FLOWmarket and Barbara Kruger. beauty. Alex Ostrowski Alex Ostrowski (1962) is a freelance designer who also occupies himself with art direction and illustration projects (The Affluenza Team 2009:[sp]). Iskra Tsaneva and Kate Andrews. Ostrowski (Alex Ostrowski [sa]) writes that the exhibition questioned whether our bloated Western culture really makes us happy . The team in charge of this project was Hege Sæbjørnsen. a tool to become our own artwork to be analyzed. All this within the semiotics of consumer goods or services. a sign-value (Featherstone 1991:67). Chelsey Browne. The obliteration of utilities original capitalistic use -value by the dominance of an exchange-value has shifted commodities becoming signs (in the sense of Pierce Saussure s semiotics) (Featherstone 1991:85). We are now confronted with an era of the consumption of signs or of symbolic aspects. The Happiest Book (figure 1). Everyday object become associated with immaterial needs/values (luxury.use-value of things are replaced by an abstract exchange-value. The featured artists of the Affluenza Project that will be discussed in this assignment are Alex Ostrowski. APPLIED ARTISTS The Affluenza Project Affluenza Project was a multi-disciplinary fine arts exhibition that took place in London on 19-28 March 2009 (The Affluenza Team 2009:[sp] ). One of the biggest inspirations for this project was the book Affluenza written by Oliver James (The Affluenza Team 2009:[sp]). for the Affluenza 8 . individuality) and are used for the legitimating of virtues we assign to ourselves. romance. Ostrowski exhibited an artist book. 5.

it is a book.9 x 233. which resulted in it being Denmark (The Affluenza Team 2009:[sp]). The Happiest Book. The title of 9 . A book can sometimes legitimize whatever is written in it just because of it being a book and thought worthwhile to publish. theories or stories that is fictional and non-fictional. 243. Ostrowski decided to visit happiness (Denmark) in March 2008.7 cm. and when he came back. Firstly. he presented his visit in the form of The Happiest Book (figure 1) (The Affluenza Team 2009:[sp]). Museum of Modern Art. a book is an object that is usually used for academic or entertainment purposes. 2008. Ostrowski writes that we are all looking for happiness in our own way. When confronted with an artwork like The Happiest Book (figure 1) different interpretation could be made.Project. to hunt down and capture this intangible and elusive treasure (Alex Ostrowski [sa]). Figure 1: Alex Ostrowski. Artist book. The University of Leicester conducted a research project on the happiest country in the world. Photograph by the author. he argues that this is man s most important purpose. New York. When we access books we expect to find either facts.

The Happiest Book In The World . New York. Therefor e. Museum of Modern Art. 10 . Artist book. detail 1 & 2 of The Happiest Book. everything is given an exchangevalue .the book is also of interest. It is likely that the viewer will realize that happiness is not something to be captured visually and documented accurately. an emotion and by looking at this book we see happiness as accessible within the pages of a book. it could perhaps behold information that is key to enlighten you. Photograph by the author. a non -referential and nontangible concept that one can only define by feeling it. Is happiness now also something to be given a value and something to theori ze and rationalize? Figure 2 Figure 3 Figure 2 & 3: Alex Ostrowski. it is a feeling. Does this mean the book is happy or does this mean that you will be happy when you have read this book or have witnessed what is in the book to witness.9 x 233. One might also detect cynicism or strange humour in this representation of happiness or maybe the artist was trying to question what happiness is.7 cm. theorizing everything could be seen a s a capitalist idea. i n other words. Maybe the problem is trying to capture it in the first place. 2008. One might also choose to interpret it rather as a book that has accomplish ed to capture and document happiness as witnessed by the author. Being happy can be considered as a state of being. 243. an emotion manifested into a physical object.

her style of black text and red background questions her audience about desire.7 cm. and picture editor in the art departments at various publications (The Affluenza Team 2009:[sp]). She has also worked as a graphic designer. Her work is about control and power and is evident with the choice of text that she layers onto her designs. autonomy and globalization.Figure 4: Alex Ostrowski. The images and text that Kruger uses to make her designs are exactly the type of imagery.9 x 233. consumerism. linguistics and ideology which Kruger disagrees with and what is being described as the symptoms of Affluenza. In her work I shop therefore I am . New York. 243. The message is emphasized by her choice of visual material. she also incorporates concise and expressive text (The Affluenza Team 2009:[sp]). She works with the process of layering found photographs from different existing sources. 11 . identity within a capitalist world. individuality. Museum of Modern Art. 2008. Barbara Kruger Barbara Kruger (1945) is an American conceptual artist and designer (The Affluenza Team 2009:[sp]). art director. Photograph by the author. also exhibited at the Affluenza Project. Artist book. detail 3 of The Happiest Book.

a social gathering or a family dinner. we define parts of ourselves by the type of shopping we engage with. When we go to an interview. someone who buys their weekly groceries at Woolworths and those that buy it at Checkers are in two separate 12 . there is a lot to consider when getting dressed for an occasion. is a contested type of statement but yet the major part of the world as a consumerist community do exactly this. Museum of Modern Art. 1987. It is an accessible way to buy things or engage in certain activities to communicate ourselves to others. New York.Figure 5: Barbara Kruger. Photograph by the author. work. I Shop therefore I am. If we demographically just inspect the type of shoppers in Pretoria. Photograph of the installation. I shop therefore I am. as judgemental creatures we do conclude a lot about a person by just their choice of clothing for example. choice of shopping it is believed to showcase identity and personality and.

13 . stress killers. furnishings. I Shop Therefore I am is an artwork that comments on the type of stereotyping that goes with consumerism and the ideology that became manifested within shopping originati ng from capitalism. Among the items to be purchased in the FLOWmarket store are happiness. The goal is a holistic view of growth. A mindset focused on sustainable growth. or is this so because we put so much emphasize on the idea by living according to the above statement? FLOWmarket FLOWmarket is a design group who make products that they think will be the short commodities of the future. We can assume a lot of t hings about both shoppers but in the end comes down to speculation and stereotyping. The Checkers shopper is assumed to being accustomed as having a more average income and life-style. The Woolworths shopper is assumed to have more money. An innovation tool which through the 3 sub-categories individual. self-esteem. Kruger s statement makes the assumption that who I am as a consumer is my identity as a person. It also comments on the ignorance of the statement that people do think this way and questions the meaning of identity displayed in this way.categories when it comes to stereotyping them. inner calmness. a better job and part of a more wealthy middle -class or upper-class way of life. They may be accustomed to nicer (more expensive) things in general: car. and choice takers. And finally a brand that through these 3 parameters transforms and concretizes the mindset into commercial products and services (The Affluenza Team 2009:[sp]). home. FLOW is a mindset. He/she might not be able to afford the products at Woolworths because of the type of job he/she occupies. an innovation tool and a commercial brand. embracing economics and technology as well as social and spiritual aspects (The Affluenza Team 2009:[sp]). clothing etc. appliances. collective and environmental flow concreti zes the parameters for sustainable growth. probably also depending on how big the shopping trolley is filled.

2006. 2006. Figure 7: FLOWmarket. This installation could propose that it is as simple as that. The installation also comments on how people judge products and services on immaterial values. FLOWmarket is a mindset. The shop in itself is an immersive environment where one is confronted with the values and dreams misplaced or wanting in our lives. Photograph by the author. 14 . the FLOWmarket shop in New York. to walk into a store and buy what you lack. a commercial brand. FLOWmarket shop in New York. Tin container. Self-love. Denmark. Photograph of the shop. a shop/space that sell empty containers that have been labelled to represent the idea of for example Self-love (figure 4).Figure 6: FLOWmarket. The first FLOWmarket shop opened in 2004 at the Danish Design Centre in Copenhagen. The installation comments on unhealthy imbalances of our society and a need for sustainable growth (The Affluenza Team 2009:[sp]). need or want immaterially in a material form. New York. Photograph by the author.

Tin container. Tin container. No worries. 2006.Figure 8: FLOWmarket. Figure 9: FLOWmarket. Life-enjoyment. FLOWmarket shop in New York. Photograph by the author. Happiness from within. FLOWmarket shop in New York. FLOWmarket shop in New York. Tin container. 2006. 15 . 2006. Photograph by the author. Figure 10: FLOWmarket. Photograph by the author.

Hollein and Grunenberg s approach to the curating of this exhibition was not of the negative effects. promotional display. promotion. Martha Roster. to be conscious of it. It also focused on how consumer products and art are presented and sold throughout the 20 th century and especially the 80s and 90s (Con suming Passions [sa]). were display ed. We have to accept it. Jeff Koons. retailing and the psychol ogical strategies of the afore mentioned (Consuming Passions [sa]). Claes Oldenberg. New York. In the last century artists have been borrowing images and strategies from mass consumerism and re-presenting as their art. installations.) from artist such as Richard Prince. to buy things. 1999. and accept that when we buy something it's because we like it. It's nothing to be ashamed of . Grunenberg (Consuming Passions [sa]) wrote about the exhibition I think it's a fallacy that we can escape the desire to want to have new things. Jasper Johns. was an exhibition showcasing the influence of art and shopping on one another. Matthew Marks Gallery. excess or evils of consumerism but rather of the race of marketing. etc. Damien Hirst. They curated works which referenced advertising.a century of art and consumer art curated by Max Hollein and Christoph Grunenberg. Photograph by the author. 207 x 337 cm.Andrea Gursky Tate Liverpool s exhibition Shopping. 16 . 99 Cent. Chromatic colour print. creative people and commercial display as well as advertising (Consuming Passions [sa]). Andy Warhol to name a few. Figure 11: Andreas Gursky. and it signifies something about ourselves. Works (photographs.

99 Cent 1999 (figure 11) is a large-scale photograph of the tightly packed shelving systems of an American 99 cent store.Andreas Gursky (1955) born in Leipzig. no less (Colberg 2007:[sp]). studied mass production and mass consumerism in his large-scale photographs. We are confronted with this type of image every time that we walk into a shop but viewing it as an artwork the visual stimuli in this picture plane is quite excessive. Advertisers and product developers create this type of visual vibrancy to capture the attention of the everyday shopper. This photograph with its rigid structure and composition is fairly big in size. No more. and Gursky s work makes you look at it. This could be to focus our attention on the skill a nd the creativeness that go into product design and advertising. Gursky displays the supermarket as an aesthetic experience. it could also comment on how products have elevated to the status of fine art. On the other hand. 17 . something to view and to enjoy. West Germany. Colberg writes about 99 Cent this is the world that we have created (and a large part of which we are now forced to ignore).

CONCLUSION The theory of Affluenza within the discourse of Globalism was explored by looking at Globalism as a discourse and how the theory of Affluenza is applied within the discourse. it includes any form of procurement. usage. The term discourse can now be better understood as well as Globalism as a discourse. consumption is not only the purchase of goods or services. firstly by giving an explanation of what the term affluenza means and how it is evident in our global society. The assignment concludes with the following applicable quote from Holbrook & Hirschman (1993:236). consumption mirrors a dramatic character s disposition and helps to reveal the nature of that personality . An analyses and interpretation of four contemporary artists whose work shows the influence of Globalism followed as examples of affluenzic values within globalism This assignment was concerned with the emotional and mental effects of trying unconsciously to be better . The effects of the virus was discussed as well as the semiotics of consumption. Hence. 18 . Media and society affected by media.6. by its reflection of motivating needs and wants. This means that consumption encompasses any behaviour confers value and that thereby reflects the influence of underlying motivations. plays a role in propagating ideas within Globalism to understand the affect on our way living and the argument showed how our society is ridden with the affluenza virus. or disposition dire cted toward consummation in the satisfaction of needs and wants. feel valuable and the chase after what it takes to be admired and how these ideologies came to be manifested within a sickened society.

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