Why I Buy (Book)

Self, Taste, and Consumer Society in America

Why do we buy? How do our acts of - and ideas about - consumption impact our selves, our institutions and our societies? Why I Buy explains how consumption came to give meaning and value to social and personal life. Gabriel offers an analysis of the psychological roots of the American consumer society and points towards a more sustainable future.


Balancing psychological, conceptual and historical analyses with examples drawn from popular culture and mass media, Rami Gabriel traces the ways in which beliefs about the self – including dualism, individualism, and expressivism – influence consumer behaviour. These understandings of the self, Gabriel argues, structure the values that Americans seek and find in consumer society; they therefore have structural consequences for our cultural, political and economic lives. For example, Gabriel describes how imbalances in the institutions of participatory politics have directly resulted from a consumer society centered on powerful nongovernmental institutions and a scattered body of disengaged citizens whose social and individual needs are not primarily satisfied through civic involvement. By exploring the relationship between our individual needs and our institutions, Gabriel ultimately points the way toward transformations that could lead to a more sustaining and sustainable society.

Rami Gabriel is assistant professor of psychology and fellow of the Liberal Arts and Sciences Research group in Mind, Science and Culture at Columbia College Chicago.

Introduction: My Self and Consumer Society
Chapter 1: Dualism: What I Really Am
Chapter 2: Individualism: The Liberal Dream of the Rugged Individualist
Chapter 3: Expressivism: I Sing Myself
Chapter 4: Consumer Society
Chapter 5: Advertisements: Representations of the Self
Chapter 6: The Rest of the World: An Empirical Test
Conclusion: What Next?

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