Rubbish Theory

Outline the ways in which rubbish can be said to have value in a consumer society. A consumer society is increasingly organized around consumption of goods and leisure, rather than the production of materials and services. It rests on consuming material goods as a supreme characteristic of value. Therefore individuals who do not consume are viewed as undervalued. Peoples consumer choices (taste and style) are seen to be indicators of who they are as a person and of their moves within the games of class, prestige, status, hierarchy, fashionability (“Features of a Consumer Society” McGregor 2011).

Many spending and investments are committed to consuming, regardless of whether it is good for the environment and health, for example the publicity funds can be higher than the education budget. Consuming brings wasting. Customers are trapped in an ever changing new beginning of technology and have to dump their older equipments (Lemann, 2008 78-79). While people are fascinated to some artificial comfort and work a lot to achieve a measure of comfort, they are distracted from important political issues like freedom and tolerate authoritarian regimes.

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Material Lives considers how the making of society involves not only relations between people, but also relations between people and things and their environments; how society shapes and is shaped not just by humans but by material objects and the environment; and some of the consequences of the fact that our lives are influenced by both the human and material worlds. This thread is throughout an examination of consumption and customer society, queries markets of and power, and issue of sustainability and waste.

Rubbish is commonly defined as a thing that has no worth; it is what nobody wants, it is disvalued, so it is worthless and has zero value. This seems straightforward, but ‘value’ is a complex term. Items don’t simply have value by virtue of their physical properties. Items have value because people value them, or rather values are given or assigned to items by people who value them. Similarly, if rubbish has no value, this is for the reason that people don’t give value to it (“Rubbish Society”, 2009 p. 105).

So rubbish is just as looking at objects of high value, can tell us a little about the social procedure that are concerned in worth or in this case, diminishing an item. Up to now the focus is on the idea that rubbish doesn’t have value. That is, rubbish has no value to the person who throws it away. (“Rubbish Society”, 2009 p. 118). It might still have negative value, in that disposing of it money and costs time. For example if a person has to take any of his household items for disposal then it will have negative value for him, considering transportation costs and the consumed time

But rubbish can potentially have value for others. As the old saying goes:“One man’s junk is another man’s treasure”. (Unknown). This is essential for defining how come there are businesses of rubbish. Rubbish allows them to make money by disposing it off in proper manner. These businesses turn rubbish into something of value. They make this possible by converting it into marketable products or by moving it away for dumping. (“Rubbish Society”, 2009 p. 119).

The growth in the recycling industry and people’s increased awareness and participation in recycling programs all over the world has also created an opening for larger organizations to operate recycling and disposal operations on an international level. The process of recycling can thus give value to rubbish and waste by producing outputs that have positive value; that is, positive prices. (“Rubbish Society”, 2009 p. 119). For example, in recent years there has been significant growth in recycling of paper, plastic and glass products, which are then sold for value that covers and exceeds the cost of recycling.

Many large corporations in the UK, like Marks&Spencers and Sainsbury’s have also started their own recycling schemes with a view to reduce waste to landfill by recycling the materials used in consumable items Rubbish or waste value can also be influenced by a number of social factors and can be redefined in and out of the category of usefulness. Michal Thompson’s “Rubbish Theory: The Creation and Destruction of Value“(2009) attempts a comprehensive theory of value through a focus on the biographies, movements and transformations of objects.

This paper has found that the Theory is useful to consumer researchers in three key ways. First it helps us to explore more fully the material dimensions of markets thus contributing to a ‘thingly turn’ in the study of consumption. Second it highlights the importance of thinking in terms of movement, flow and circulation and moves us away from means-end, supply-demand, and production-consumption linearities in thinking through the consumption process (Thompson, 1979 217-218). Third it suggests that value, rather than being an inbuilt property of an object, emerges through our ways of seeing and placing objects.

Most people are used to exploring the role of objects as resources in individual’s lives, trough their movement in and out of our field of vision. Further research would trace lives of objects, casting studies of consumption as one moment in the wider life of a thing. In particular further work might explore the role of institutions in influencing the valuation of a type of object asking how the category boundaries of rubbish and durable are policed in our contemporary culture.

Here people might see art critics and dealers, antique dealers, museum curators etc as working hard at the edges of the durable category to keep some objects inside and some firmly outside (Thompson, 1979 217-218). There is also more to be done on the relations between individual and collective valuations-what role is there for individuality (or perhaps eccentric evaluations)? Acknowledging the centrality of practice in the process of value creation moves researchers away from an over emphasis on semiotics and representation.

It requires an in-depth exploration of what consumers actually do with objects as they absorb them into their lives. Such a focus acknowledges that the creation and maintenance of value cannot be reduced to the moment of the economic transaction. It also highlights the creativity and resourcefulness of consumers particularly in translating objects from rubbish to durable. Rubbish and its disposal play an integral part of the consumption in a society. Analyzing rubbish has allowed us to inspect a number of the approaches by which objects move towards to be disvalued, undervalued, revalued and valued.

Rubbish, is normally treated as disvalued: it has no value to those who want to dispose of it. Yet people have also seen that rubbish can be revalued, or given new value, by recycling it or passing it on to others who have a use for it. Items considered as rubbish can also be revalued by changes in fashion or tastes for objects previously considered worthless. Ecological concerns also suggest that rubbish should be recycled, not thrown away as if of no value. In fact, disposing of rubbish imposes costs on society, so such rubbish really has negative value for society.

It has also seen that the analysis of environmental externalities suggests that the environment has been thoroughly undervalued. Instead of taking care of it as something plentiful – as a free good or something that itself has no value – humankind has to learn to revalue it and hence conserve it. Environmental analysis of the overconsumption of planet Earth suggests that this lesson needs to be learnt quickly. Here the social process of valuation can be examined in terms of supply and demand. (“Rubbish Society”, 2009 p. 42) Thompson’s rubbish theory shows a way of examining in which the class of rubbish can function as an intermediary in the conversion of transients into durables of value. References “Features of a Consumer Society”, McGregor Consulting http://www. consultmcgregor. com/documents/resources Brown, V. (2009) ‘Rubbish society: af? uence, waste and values’ in Taylor, S. , Hinchliffe, S. , Clarke, J. and Bromley, S. (eds) Making Social Lives,Milton Keynes, The Open University. Thompson,M. (1979). “Rubbish theory: the creation and destruction of value”. Oxford University Press.

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