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This book provides a comprehensive introduction to the issues, concepts and theories through which people have tried to understand consumer culture throughout the modern period, and puts the current state of thinking into a broader context. Thematically organized, the book shows how the central aspects of consumer culture - such as needs, choice, identity, status, alienation, objects, culture - have been debated within modern theories, from those of earlier thinkers such as Marx and Simmel to contemporary forms of post-structuralism and postmodernism. This approach introduces consumer culture as a subject which - far from being of narrow or recent interest - is intimately tied to the central issues of modern times and modern social thought. With its reviews of major theorists set within a full account of the development of the subject, this book should be of interest to undergraduate and postgraduate students in the many disciplines which now study consumer culture, including communications and cultural studies, anthropology and history.