Public Release: 

Playing the game

New research into how social class affects the consumerism

University of Chicago Press Journals

Self perception, specifically in regard to lifestyle and social class, plays a significant role in how a consumer surveys consumer markets and their attention and reaction to them, suggests new research by Paul C. Henry (The University of Sydney) in the March 2005 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research.

Henry asserts that everyday financial practices are the result of a consumer's "feel for the game." He explains: "Analyzing class in terms of power phenomena helps tease out an important aspect of habitus that at a functional level impacts economic opportunity, but at a social level holds one in their place and constrains quality of life opportunities."

Humans have an intricate and complex set of mental variables that affect their "conditions of existence." This set of variables has been defined in previous literature as "habitus." These conditions not only affect one's lifestyle, but also consumer choices and practices.

"Habitus is then a central conduit between objective positions (classes) and patterns of practices. While conditions of existence are objectified in class structures (such as social class, age, and gender), social conditioning is a result of specific mix and volumes of capitals--economic, social, and cultural--that are typical of position in class structures," Henry writes.

Of note is the effect of (dis)empowerment on consumers. He stresses that the effect of social class is great when considering consumerism.

"This article explores the role of (dis)empowerment as a central phenomenon of social class. Experience of power is found to shape self concept, which impacts everyday consumption practices," Henry contends. "They flow into the financial domain with professionals setting themselves up for opportunity and growth, taking a very broad perspective on investing, and engaging in more elaborate budget planning."


Social Class, Market Situation, and Consumers' Metaphors of (Dis)empowerment. By PAUL C. HENRY. © 2005 by JOURNAL OF CONSUMER RESEARCH, Inc. - Vol. 31 - March 2005.

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