A Theory of Shopping

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How can shopping be seen as a sacrifice?

Daniel Millers’ essay, A Theory of Shopping, explores the intricate nature of shopping, and the behaviours exhibited by families within a suburb of North London. Millers’ observations took place over a one-year period from 1994-5, and through this time many interesting theories were raised. One particular point raised by Miller was the fact that there are many parallels between shopping and sacrifice. He brought this comparison up in a number of ways, which have been summarised below. The first example can be seen with the vision of excess. When considering excess in shopping we are focussing on the fact of discourse rather then the actual act of shopping. This, along with the violent expenditure in discussions of sacrifice, shows that both examples represent a “fantasy of extreme expenditure and consumption as dissipation”. The second point put forward is the common image of transcendence that occurs in both events. The core part of the ritual is the splitting of what is offered to the deity, and what is retained for the human consumption. Similarly when consumers go shopping, they split what will be for themselves with what will be bought for others as an expression of love or through their relationships with the other. Finally Miller explores the dissemination of the objects which has been sanctified, and has returned the sphere of the profane. In terms of sacrifice this can be seen with the sacrificial meal which partakes after the act, which is can be paralleled to shopping for the food used in making Thanks Giving dinners in the United States
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