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Title: Towards a theory of detritus : waste and value in consumer society
Author: Fraser, Keith D.
Awarding Body: University of Nottingham
Current Institution: University of Nottingham
Date of Award: 2012
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This thesis focuses on the complex cultural, social and material factors that combine to hasten the decay of value and precipitate disposal in contemporary consumer societies. I argue that the dominance in waste studies of constructivism as a framework for understanding the endowment of objects with value, has lead to an underestimation of the materiality of devalued materials and objects. This overemphasis on abstract value theory in dominant discourses, I suggest, necessitates a return to a more grounded theory of va1ue that can be re-integrated with both the material affordances of objects and political economy. I therefore reconsider and re-theorise Marx's concept of use-value in order to redress these concerns; particularly the tendency to treat waste as an issue autonomous of production in capitalist societies. I argue that use-value can be reinterpreted as encompassing symbolic as well as material aspects of objects and that Marx therefore provides a significant basis for reworking theories of waste and impurity. I also argue for a renewed emphasis on the changing temporal characteristics of objects and their value in order to counter the overly synchronic and spatial basis of classic approaches to dirt, waste and disposal. My argument is brought into critical engagement with the cultura1 theory of Mary Douglas and Michael Thompson's influential Rubbish Theory: The Destruction and Creation of Value (I979), as well as more recent engagements in debates. With reference to the thesis I develop, I ask whether it can be legitimately claimed that capitalist consumer societies are also necessarily 'throwaway societies' and I discuss the possibility that objects devoid of use and exchange values can offer a critique of the capitalist economic system
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available