The Social Imaginary of Modern Consumer Disposal - a Consumer Culture Theory Study of Disposal Practices Among Consumers in Denmark

Research output: ThesisPh.D. thesis


This dissertation investigates consumer disposal through the lens of Consumer Culture Theory (CCT). Driven by the fundamental question of how social and cultural formations influence consumption phenomena, CCT research has produced valuable insights into the identity and value pursuits guiding consumer disposal practices. Yet investigations of the socio-historical structures underlying these practices remain scarce. Attending to these structures can however help us better understand why consumers in modern society dispose of things like they do and, therewith, what we can do to prevent the formation of waste.

Accordingly, this dissertation aims to advance knowledge on the socio-historical structuring of disposal by addressing the question of how the social imaginary informs consumer disposal practices in modern society. Drawing on a philosophical interpretation of the social imaginary as the individual and collective capacity to create undetermined representations, the dissertation explores the social imaginary representations underlying consumer disposal practices in Denmark. It does so through three empirical studies employing a mix of qualitative methods, including interviews, (netnographic) observations and document analyses. In addition, a fourth theoretical paper discusses more broadly how the social imaginary of marketing theory contributes to the performative reproduction of a socio- economic order based on waste generation.

The findings illustrate how the social imaginary creates a tension between the present and a potential future that triggers consumer disposal practices. Specifically, they show that consumers dispose of their everyday objects in order to guard themselves from potential risks or, on the contrary, to fulfill some fictional expectations of themselves and others. They also illustrate how these future imaginations are qualitatively informed by collective representations of subjectivity and society that define the zeitgeist of modern disposal. Overall, these findings carry important theoretical implications regarding the role of the imaginary in value formation and social order institution. They also point to some practical suggestions for preventing waste both at the individual and collective level.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aarhus Business School
Date of defence12. Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022
Externally publishedYes


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