By Rob Shields
First released in 2004. Routledge is an imprint of Taylor & Francis, an informa corporation.
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Extra info for Lifestyle Shopping: The Subject of Consumption
Simmel made preliminary attempts to understand the modern forms of social life such as the impartiality of the outsider, the playful eroticism of the coquette or role of professional dinner guest. He was among the first to note how sociation had situation-dependent elements. He also noted the relationship of feelings to situations such as the gratitude of a gift’s recipient or the blasé indifference of the urban dweller. For various reasons—the political agendas of the Marxists or abstract quests for theoretical purity of functionalism—Simmel’s work has had less attention than it deserves.
To him Paris seemed to be a place whose populace had become ‘given to psychical epidemics’ (Freud, 1960:199–200, Letter to Minna Bernays). He was little different, in fact, to the modern ‘guest worker’ who spends his first day in the city in mesmerized procession ‘from shop window to shop window’ (Tournier, 1988:144). The window-displays flaunt the commodity; offering it to the casual passer-by in a tantalizingly incomplete manner. It forms ‘an enclosed area, at the same time totally exposed to the gaze and inaccessible to the hands, impenetrable and yet without secrets, a world you may only touch with your eyes but which is nevertheless real, in no way illusory like the world of photography’ (Tournier, 1988:144).
More particularly there was developed, as the unifying conception ‘underlying’ the variety of wants, a conception of selfhood as individuated personal identity. The self, as any other ‘universal’, could become conscious within us only through the medium of some particular content, some specific set of events or desires. The ‘self’ which exists potentially within us, it was held, becomes actual through the process of consumption. All consumption became conceivable as the desire, for, as well as the desire of, the self.