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The Perils of Consumption and the Gift Economy as the Solution Daniel Miller’s Consumption and Its Consequences

Abstract

Miller is an anthropologist who has done much work on people’s connections to consumer objects. This has put him at odds with the view that modern consumerism is driven by false needs. His latest book also acknowledges the impact of consumption on the environment. Miller argues there is no chance of reigning in consumption with campaigns for moral reform. He favours regulation by a so-called neutral science. Whether this is any more politically palatable than moral reform is debatable. Miller does not sufficiently emphasize the role of alienated labour. Within the political framework he favours, alienated labour is inevitable. However, the gift economy could alleviate pressures for consumption by abolishing alienated labour. Miller’s ethnographies appear to show that every consumed product is much wanted. The critique of market failures expains the problems with this conclusion. A complete replacement of the market with the gift economy could be the best option for avoiding problems with consumption.

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