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Owing to its internal, fragmented complexity, consumer culture does not determine action as a causal force.Much like a game where individuals improvise within the constraints of rules (Bourdieu 1990), consumer culture—and the marketplace ideology it conveys—frames consumers’ horizons of conceivable action, feeling, and thought, making certain patterns of behavior and sense‐making interpretations more likely than others (Askegaard and Kjeldgaard 2002; Holt 1997; Kozinets 2002; Thompson and Hirschman 1995).
This CCT is not a unified, grand theory, nor does it aspire to such nomothetic claims.
Rather, it refers to a family of theoretical perspectives that address the dynamic relationships between consumer actions, the marketplace, and cultural meanings.
The term “consumer culture” also conceptualizes an interconnected system of commercially produced images, texts, and objects that groups use—through the construction of overlapping and even conflicting practices, identities, and meanings—to make collective sense of their environments and to orient their members’ experiences and lives (Kozinets 2001).
These meanings are embodied and negotiated by consumers in particular social situations roles and relationships.
While representing a plurality of distinct theoretical approaches and research goals, CCT researchers nonetheless share a common theoretical orientation toward the study of cultural complexity that programmatically links their respective research efforts.
Rather than viewing culture as a fairly homogenous system of collectively shared meanings, ways of life, and unifying values shared by a member of society (e.g., Americans share this kind of culture; Japanese share that kind of culture), CCT explores the heterogeneous distribution of meanings and the multiplicity of overlapping cultural groupings that exist within the broader sociohistoric frame of globalization and market capitalism.
Each fails to signify the theoretical commonalities and linkages within this research tradition.
They either place too much emphasis on methodological distinctions or they invoke overly coarse and increasingly irrelevant contrasts to a presumed dominant consumer research paradigm.
This circumstance, coupled with some lingering vestiges of the 1980s paradigm battles, has given rise to three enduring misunderstandings about CCT that impede appreciation of its aims, analytic logics, and disciplinary contributions.