I think this guy Zygmunt Bauman will be recognized as one of today's leading lights. He's doing great work on consumerism and the breakdown of social institutions and their replacements.
The nature of a consuming society (as
opposed to our cultural language based on a production society) is not
well understood. It has profound implications for self-identity and
Here's my translation of Bauman's idea (I hope I got most of it right) in his book Consuming Life:
In a producing society, institutions tend to be large. You belonged to large groups that bestowed automatic identity.
in productivity meant smaller institutions and less individual
belonging to social institutions. Individuals were left to socially and
psychology fend for themselves (incidentally leading people to the need
to brand themselves). Without overarching, permament themes in
society, social relationships are tentative and brief and identities are
driven by the latest consumer good.
This is because modern communities are underlain by consumer goods.
communities tend to be created by consumer technology (social media is
an example), thereby rendering your participation in the modern world a
function of economics (your ability to buy the technology). Those who
will not or cannot participate will be left behind.
The take away for marketers is a deeper understanding of what motivates consumers and why.
Remember, if you truly want to excel, you have to understand the big picture.