Dying to Consume: Marketing and the Existentialization of Sustainability

Thomas Derek Robinson, Jessica Chelekis

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review


This conceptual paper diagnoses the fundamental tensions between the social temporality of sustainability and the individual temporality of marketing in the Dominant Social Paradigm. We propose the notion of ‘existentialized sustainability’ as a possible way forward.

We take the Heideggerian perspective that death may bring individual and societal time into a common framework. From here, we compare anthropological and consumer culture research on funerary rites in non-modern societies with contemporary societies of the DSP.

Funerary rites reveal important insights into how individuals relate to their respective societies. Individuals are viewed as important contributors to the maintenance and regeneration of the group in non-modern societies. In contrast, funerary rites for individuals in the DSP are private, increasingly informal, and unconnected to sustaining society at large. This analysis reveals clear parallels between the goals of sustainability and the values of non-modern funerary rites.

Social implications
We propose the metaphor of a funerary rite for sustainability to promote consciousness towards societal futures. The idea is to improve ‘quality of death’ through sustainability – in other words, the ‘existentialization of sustainability’. This opens up a possible strategy for marketers to actively contribute to a societal shift towards a New Environmental Paradigm (NEP).

The Heideggerian approach is a novel way to identify and reconcile the epistemic contradictions between sustainability and marketing. This diagnosis suggests a way in which marketing can address the wicked problem of global sustainability challenges, perhaps allowing a new spirituality in consumption.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationConsumer Culture Theory : Research in Consumer Behavior
EditorsNil Özçağlar-Toulouse , Diego Rinallo , Russel W. Belk
PublisherEmerald Group Publishing
Publication date2016
ISBN (Print)978-1-78635-496-9
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-78635-495-2
Publication statusPublished - 2016
SeriesResearch in Consumer Behavior


Dive into the research topics of 'Dying to Consume: Marketing and the Existentialization of Sustainability'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this