In these chapters, John Crammer examines the consumption patterns existing in Japan. His main argument is that by studying them, researchers can better understand the social life of a country, the formation of people’s identities and values, or micro-economics of households (Clammer, 2008, p. 1).
In the author’s opinion, the discussion of consumption patterns is particularly important for the study of the Japanese culture that differs in many ways from Western cultures. He focuses on such aspects as social stratification, teenager’s behavior, values of Japanese customers, and the relations between consumption and urbanization.
John Crammer believes that the mass consumption in Japan began to grow in the sixties. At that time, the country began to transform itself from an industrialist society into a consumerist one (Clammer, 2008, p. 2). The scholar points out that the consumption in this country is not a mere transfer of good and commodities; more likely it is status competition (Clammer, 2008, p. 6). In other words, buyers want to show that they have achieved success.
Thus, consumption is closely linked to the construction of self-identify. Nevertheless, the Japanese society is also very stratified and people try to adhere to their social roles. For instance, a person, who looks for a job, is more likely to be dressed in a certain way (Clammer, 2008, p. 11).
As a rule, such a person does not want to emphasize his/her wealth because such behavior is not usually approved by the society. Thus, people’s buying habits are affected not only by his/her desire to acquire status in the eyes of ones peers or friends.
Secondly, according to this author, consumption is important for establishing or maintaining relations between people. For instance, Japanese teenagers view shopping as a way of reinforcing friendship; it is a part of their peer culture (Clammer, 2008, p. 14). This issue should be overlooked by people who study the culture of Japan.
It should be taken into account that Japanese people are less individualistic, and collective values or interests may be of greater importance for them. This is why peers usually go to department stores together.
Additionally, John Crammer points out consumption patterns can tell much about gift-giving in Japan. As a rule, Japanese people regard gift-giving as one of their obligations which are required by the etiquette (Clammer, 2008, p. 18). For instance, people who occupy a lower position in the workplace hierarchy, often give presents to people who are their superiors (Clammer, 2008, p. 17). They are signs of recognition.
On the whole, gifts are not used to create bonds between people; one of their roles is to highlight the distance existing between people. For instance, female employees give their make co-workers chocolates (Clammer, 2008, p. 17). Such a gift indicates that there are only formal relations between two people. Such behavior may exist in other cultures, but in Japan it is more widespread.
Apart from that, the author does not agree with the opinion that the Japanese middle-class is homogeneous and prosperous. Many of these people do not feel that their employment is secured; therefore, the consumption patterns of Japanese middle-income people differ significantly.
Their goals and priorities may not coincide. However, one should note that Japanese customers attach more importance the quality of the product, rather than its price (Clammer, 2008, p. 24). Cheapness is not one of the qualities that appeals to Japanese buyers.
Furthermore, they believe that companies should not offer only goods or services. These organizations have to act as corporate citizens that pay attention to the interests of the community. So, Japanese society sets higher performance standards for businesses. Thus, consumption patterns can throw light on the cultural values of Japanese people and their behavior.
Furthermore, in his book, John Clammer (2008) examines the connection between consumer culture and urbanization. According to the author, consumption is important for avoiding the economic downfall of many urban regions. For instance, in Japan the inner-cities do not turn into ghettos; they are more likely to become the concentration of very large stores, offices, or cinemas (Clammer, 2008, p. 28).
Additionally, one should take into consideration that Japanese people give more preference to collectivity, rather than individualism. Therefore, the residents of urban areas are more inclined to form groups or associations. Thus, their leisure and consumption are affected by this collectivity. They are not as isolated from one another as many American or European consumers are. This is one of the distinctions that people should be aware of.
Overall, these examples suggest consumption pattern in Japan can be viewed as indicators as social and cultural life. They can give the reaches insights into the values and goals of a certain nation. First of all, one can mention that Japanese people see consumption as a way of attaining status in the community. They normally place emphasis on the quality of the products and the corporate social responsibility of companies. Secondly, buying is an organized and collective activity.
Clammer, J. (2008). Contemporary Urban Japan: A Sociology of Consumption. New York: John Wiley & Sons.