Consumption and Well-Being

Avner Offer

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Consumption

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199561216
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

 Consumption and Well-Being

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Consumption defines the standard of living – whether food is hot or cold, whether walls are dry or damp. It is the stuff of desires and dreams. It signals superiority, but also community. It drives policy and vexes scholars. But consumption is not consummation. Its purpose recedes even as it is being realized. If insatiability is the vortex at the heart of consumption, there are also other problems. In standard economic theory, consumers rank preferences in the present, but the most significant choices arise not between two immediate substitutes (say coffee or tea), but between the present and the future. This article opens with some standard assumptions about the benefits of consumption, and competing ones about its futility. It discusses the findings of social and behavioural research on consumption and well-being, the link between happiness and wealth, relative income, habituation, materialism, history and culture, advertising, myopia, narcissism, and individualism.

Keywords: consumption; well-being; consumers; happiness; wealth; relative income; materialism; individualism; habituation

Article.  8748 words. 

Subjects: History

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