Coping with consumer culture: elderly urban consumers in post-Soviet Estonia

 

Margit Keller and Triin Vihalemm

 

University of Tartu

 

 

Abstract. The article discusses representations of consumer culture in todayís Estonia by elderly urban consumers. The study, which draws on 30 original interviews with urban consumers over 45 years of age, outlines the clashes between the Soviet consumer culture and its current counterpart. We place the analysis within the framework of Simmelís objective and subjective culture, as well as within that of several sociological and anthropo≠logical studies. Based on this, it may be concluded that, for this group of consumers, profusion of goods and free choice are often rendered illusory, as they foreshadow new scarcities that have to be coped with on individual level. This, in turn, generates critical representations on a continuum from micro level personal problems of financial need to a more macro level social divide, as well as on the level of Western consumer society at large.

 

Keywords: consumer culture, objective and subjective culture, Soviet, post-Soviet, choice