Course 2012-2013 a.y.



Department of Social and Political Sciences

Course taught in English

Go to class group/s: 19
ACME (6 credits - I sem. - OB  |  SECS-P/12)
Course Director:

Classes: 19 (I sem.)

Course Objectives

The aim of the course is to explore the cultural dimension of consumption under different points of view. This course addresses questions around meanings and practices of consumption in post-modern societies in which the immaterial value of the objects has overcome the traditional use value with all the consequences that this has in consumer’s behaviour. The economic neo-classical approach is not able to explain this emerging complexity without the contribution of disciplines like history, sociology, anthropology and psychology.
Some theories in the sociology of consumption suggest that our consumption and lifestyles increasingly hold more meaning than traditional identity markers such as our paid work, income, education or ethnicity.
The course starts from the origin of the consumption phenomenon and goes through its relation with identity, societies and symbol. Some specific parts analyse the consumption in the cultural industries and the main aspects of cultural consumption in the urban areas.
The critical approach is meant to understand the practice of cultural consumption not as a standing-alone phenomenon, but as modality of continuous and integrated relation with the artistic production.

Course Content Summary

The Course is divided into two main parts. In the first one, the theoretical framework around the issue of cultural consumption is built up under both an historical and a subject-specific point of view. The notion of consumption is caught at its pre-industrial beginning, then, followed during the industrial revolutions and eventually defined in the modern and post-modern society. At the same time, the evolution of values and behaviours have determined a progress in the disciplines which have coped with this issue. In particular, the realm of cultural consumption has become a fertile field of exchange and battle among social scientists especially when they had to deal with activities like arts, that cannot match easily with the modern concept of consumption.
In the second part of the Course, contemporary paths of cultural consumption are analysed in practice in the fields of contemporary art market, cultural industries, museums and heritage, design and fashion, festival and cultural events.
The lectures are the opportunity to test and evaluate the actual validity and scope of the theories.

Detailed Description of Assessment Methods

The final evaluation is based on a written exam on subjects discussed during lectures: 2/3 open questions to be answered within 90 min. Students can ask for an optional oral integration (up to 3 points to be added or detracted on the grade of the written part) on the same day of the written part revision.


Attending students

Slides for all lessons are provided only to attending students. The status of attending student lasts for the first two calendar exams.

Non-attending students   

Non-attending students have to read all materials in the timetable plus the following texts:

  • H. MolotchWhere Stuff Comes From: How Toasters, Cars, Computers, and Many Other Things Come to Be as They Are, New York, Routledge, 2003

All students 

The following texts are suggested readings for all students who want more on the topics:

  • C.S. Smith, Art, Technology, and Science: Notes on Their Historical Interaction, pp. 191-241 (Ch. 8) in A Search for Structure: Selected Essays on Science, Art, and History, Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1981.
  • D. Miller, Could Shopping Ever Really Matter?, pages 31-55, in Falk, Campbell, The Shopping Experience, 1997.
  • Le Corbusier, A Contemporary City from The City of Tomorrow and Its Planning (1929), MIT Press, 1979.
  • J. Jacobs, Death and Life of Great American Cities (Ch. 7), Generators of diversity (pages 187-197); Need for primary mixed uses (pages 198-232).
  • S. Lieberson, Ch. 7, Ethnic and racial groups (pages 172-222) in A Matter of Taste: How Names, Fashions, and Culture Change, New Have, Yale University Press, 2000.
  • J. Jacobs, The valuable inefficiencies and impracticalities of cities, pages 85-122, in The economy of cities, Vintage Publishers.
  • P. Betts, Re-Enchanting the economy: Nazi Modernism Reconsidered (pages 23-73) in The authority of everyday objects, University of California press, 2004.
  • D. Boden, H. Molotch, Cyberspace meets the compulsion of proximity in S. Graham, The cyberscity reader, Routledge, 2004.
  • D. Lowenthal, The Heritage Crusade and Its Contradictions (Ch. 1, pp. 1-30), H. Muschamp, The Secret History , New York Times, Jan. 8, 2006.
Exam textbooks & Online Articles (check availability at the Library)
Last change 06/07/2012 10:39