In The Ambivalent Consumer, Sheldon Garon and Patricia L. Maclachlan bring together an array of scholars who explore the ambivalence provoked, especially in East and Southeast Asia, by the global spread of "American" consumer culture. As the world's second-largest economy, Japan has long engaged in a vibrant consumerism tempered by deeply held beliefs about morality, thrift, community, and national identity. Its neighbors in East and Southeast Asia-South Korea, China, Malaysia, and Singapore-have likewise anxiously balanced consumption and saving. The first comparative volume to examine global phenomena of consumer culture from the perspective of East Asia, this book analyzes not only the attractions of mass consumption but also the many discontents and dilemmas that arise from consumerism.
Placing Japan and the United States in a transnational context, the book's contributors find that European countries more closely resemble Japan than they do the United States in their saving rates, consumption levels, environmental concerns, and discomfort with consumer credit. The Ambivalent Consumer offers a useful perspective on the political economies of consumption to address such pressing topics as movements against genetically modified foods; shifting relations among consumers, producers, and states; the differential influence of gender on consumption; and conflicting consumer attitudes toward globalization.
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Number of pages: 328
Weight: 28 g
Dimensions: 235 x 155 x 18 mm
"This book is a valuable contribution to the literature on consumption in Japan and elsewhere in East Asia. It is especially useful because it contrasts Asian patterns of consumption with at least a selection of those found in the West-in this case in the United States, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.... The essays in this volume (and the introduction by the editors) are of a uniformly high quality and represent an attractive mix of Japanese and Western scholarship on historical and contemporary consumption behavior primarily in Japan.... As the editors explain in their introduction, the title refers to the substantial ambivalence they see about the globalized reach of American-style or American-inspired consumption. Ambivalence is found not only among critics of globalization, but equally among Asian consumers who fear, perhaps rightly, the erosion of their local economies; the destruction of cultural forms and practices including fashions, cuisines, popular culture, and patterns and content of entertainment and vernacular architecture; and, when excessive consumption displaces the culture of thrift that preceded it, the collapse of sociological patterns such as the many small family businesses that abound in Japan and the morality that underpinned those patterns.... The book is essentially an exploration of this dialectic between the globalization of consumption along largely American-led lines and the local debates and practices that have questioned, resisted, modified, rejected, and assimilated those patterns. It raises important theoretical questions, including, as the editors point out, whether all 'consumer revolutions' are necessarily alike."* Journal of Japanese Studies *