Learning from Baudrillard and Foucault: Consumer Culture, Social Milieus and the Governmentality of Lifestyle

At the ISPP 31st Annual Conference in Paris, 09.-12.-07.2008, I will present a theoretical framework based on Foucault and Baudrillard which hopefully offers inspiring insight into what by some authors is called „postmodern consumer society“. The aim is bringing together Jean Baudrillards early and groundbreaking analysis of Consumer Culture (first published in 1970) with Michel Foucaults concept of neoliberal Governmentality in a concept of what I call the „Governmentality of Lifestyle“.

Combining Foucault’s concept of neoliberal governmentality, Baudrillard’s analysis of consumer culture and developments in market research etc., one can see new kinds of power relations evolve within and across societies. Governmentality of lifestyle is the pattern of interindividual and intergroup power relations. Especially political and psychological research has to be done to trace the impacts of such a new power relations on individuals as well as on societies.

Consumer Culture unfolds to full scale. Today, signs and not the good behind the signs are the most important selling factors. The style of everyday life becomes a powerful means of creating identity and social affiliation in postmodern societies. Social Milieus – large groups of people not only sharing patterns of modern stratification, but also interests, consumer patterns, and even styles of arranging personal relationships – shape postmodern societies, which are characterized by lifestyle-driven segmentation patterns.

Social Milieus also became one of the most powerful means to identify target groups in todays market-research. Data are captured by research, bonus programms and creditcards and . This development goes far beyond the dicussions referring to the protection of data privacy and surveillance, as such techniques are already implemented and, of course, used to create transparent consumers. Taken together, all these developments form a complex of power relations of the Governmentality of Lifestyle.

1 Response to “Learning from Baudrillard and Foucault: Consumer Culture, Social Milieus and the Governmentality of Lifestyle”

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