An essay on shopping malls and the power struggles going on within them: A critical analysis of Fiske's "Shopping for Pleasure", from "Reading The Popular".

Topics: Sociology, Social class, Shopping mall Pages: 5 (1520 words) Published: November 9, 2005
An essay on shopping malls and the power struggles going on within them.

In this essay, I have given a critical analysis of Fiske's "Shopping for Pleasure", from

"Reading The Popular". In this analysis, I will be examining the main points in this chapter and discussing Fiske's explanation for including each one. I will also be examining counter arguments from other sources on his theories.

There are five distinctive sections within this chapter: 'malls, power and resistance', 'consuming women', commodities and women', 'conspicuous consumption', and 'progress and the new.' I intend to look at each section separately, finally connecting the whole chapter at the end of my analysis.

The first section from this chapter is titled 'Malls, Power and Resistance'. This section discusses shopping malls or "cathedrals of consumption" as described by the author, and the power struggle between the consumer and the distributor. As shown above, the author, in this section uses the metaphor of consumerism as a religion, the 'icons of worship' being the commodities. This seems a reasonable metaphor, the consumers as a congregation and the manufacturers or distributors being the 'Authority on High', however the author dislikes this metaphor, preferring to swap it for a metaphor of warfare later on in this section, when describing the tricks used by consumers to baffle and display pseudo-power over the authority of the malls.

Basically, this section is describing the power of the capitalists by means of the shopping mall and the tactics of the consumer to counter this. The tactics including window shopping, using the mall as a place to hang-out (consuming space in the mall, rather than commodities), and generally exploiting the mall for the use of its controlled climate for example, walking in bad weather and letting young children play in the warm. However, as Fiske points out, the owners of the shopping malls may even encourage the passive users in the hope that they will become 'real economic consumers', but they have no control over whether they will. Fiske describes this power struggle in malls as " where the strategy of the powerful is most vulnerable to the tactical raids of

the weak."

In the next part of the text, 'Consuming Women', the author finds three two emphases: gender difference, (female gender and shopping versus male gender and success) and work versus leisure. These seem to be the main points within this section, with the gender issue being the principal issue. Fiske demonstrates this by the slogans in cards and shop windows and the different cultural visibility that the two sexes receive, for example for the masculine attributes are competitive and tough - public success, whereas the women's attributes are (within the patriarchal society and concept of the 'nuclear family') 'household managers', and although are too expected to be successes this is within the confined and private space of home and family life. The work versus leisure theme is demonstrated by Fiske with the use of shopping as a leisure activity when it was formerly seen as household work. This is also demonstrated within the article by Ferrier (1987): "The shoppingtown , with its carnival atmosphere, seems set to collapse the distinction between work and leisure." Ferrier also notes that "Boundaries between public and private become ambiguous." A principle point in this section that combines both gender difference and work versus leisure, is the empowerment that women can find within their side of the structured values within the patriarchal system and within this the ability to escape the structure itself. Also noted by the author is the use of 'feminine tricks' as demonstrated by Elizabeth Cady Stanton in the 1850s, and which is described by the author as "the weak (i.e. women) ...us(ing) the resources provided by the strong in their own interests, and to oppose the interests of those who provided the resources."

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