SOC-20036 - Cultures of Consumption
Coordinator: Rebecca Leach Room: CBA0.017 Tel: +44 1782 7 33359
Lecture Time: See Timetable...
Level: Level 5
Credits: 15
Study Hours: 150
School Office:

Programme/Approved Electives for 2023/24


Available as a Free Standing Elective






Barred Combinations


Description for 2023/24

The module will ask ' Do we live in a consumer society?' and address some of the answers that come from the sociology of consumption and the social theory of consumer/material cultures. We will explore some specifics, such as shopping, waste, objects, advertising/branding but in the process, the module will address some bigger sociological themes such as: How much is too much stuff? What counts as waste and what do we do with it? Do people judge social class on the basis of consumer taste? and, Are we consumers, dupes or citizens?
Using a combination of interactive lectures, engaging activities (including, if possible, some optional field activities/visits), shared discussion of weekly reading (both online and in seminars), video and other materials and groupwork activity, we'll explore real-world examples of contemporary consumer/material cultures, and apply existing sociological knowledge/theory to explore these.

To provide students with a critical overview of major theoretical debates in social and cultural approaches to consumption and consumer culture and to highlight the sociological contribution made to them;
To introduce students to a range of substantive themes in the sociology of consumption and consumer culture that address important historical and contemporary social, cultural, ethical and political issues, and that allow students to appreciate relevant theoretical debates;
To develop students' understandings of the sociological, social and cultural dimensions of theories of consumer culture in a range of teaching and learning contexts;
To enhance students' ability to link concepts and evidence in social science within a broadly comparative and historical framework;
To provide opportunities through seminar discussion and essay preparation in which students may develop their skills of group work, scholarly discussion and exposition of complex ideas.

Talis Aspire Reading List
Any reading lists will be provided by the start of the course.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Recognise and describe key debates in the sociology of consumption and consumer culture.: 1,2
Identify and understand some of the connections between empirical sociological examples/evidence, and critical social theory relating to consumer/material culture, and the sociology of consumption more generally.: 1,2
Apply theoretical knowledge from more than one debate within the sociology of consumption/consumer cultures field to a chosen exemplar.: 1,2
Use skills of analysis and explanation in showing an understanding of how the idea of consumption is considered as a sociological concern.: 1,2
Evaluate different sociological positions on consumption and consumer/material cultures.: 1,2
Appraise feedback and develop thinking/writing to expand core understanding and application of knowledge of sociology of consumption and consumer/material cultures.: 2
Develop skills of summarising complex ideas for a general audience, making direct connection between examples and sociologically relevant sources, and professional presentation.: 2

Study hours

Active learning:
22 contact hours
4 hours supervised study/guidance sessions
12 hours structured online activity
6 hours collaborative online discussion
40 hours assessment preparation
48 hours reading for tutorial discussion
18 hours background reading

School Rules


Description of Module Assessment

1: Exercise weighted 30%
750 word plan for case study
Students complete a 750 word plan for the case study. This will include: 150 words - identification of topic/case - eg. consumer object, consumption process, cultural form. Students will choose their own, either from examples used in lectures/seminars or will propose an independent case. They will set out briefly the specific example, its scope and context. Up to 450 words (not including reference information) - students will provide an annotated bibliography of up to 10 sources FROM THE MODULE READING Iist which they will use to develop their case. For this part of the assessment they'll write a short paragraph summarising some of the key relevant points from each source. 150 words - students will write a closing section outlining how they'll continue to develop their case study.

2: Case Study weighted 70%
1750 word case study
Making use of their original assessment, feedback and their further research, students will submit a case study report. This will take the form of a professionally presented brief, written using and explaining academic sources alongside publicly available material which illustrates the case chosen. Students may use up to 1750 words = equivalent to 6-7 pages of double spaced text. They may choose to supplement this with 4-5 images (equivalent to 2 pages of text) which are essential to the analysis and are not simply more written words in graphic form. Key 'authentic' skills assessed will be set out in a rubric, with models/examples, and will include: using the module reading list explicitly; summary and synthesis of academic concepts, application to specific real-world/evidence-based example; communication of complex ideas for different audiences; professional presentation standards. Students will be encouraged to consider presenting their work at the Keele undergraduate conference.