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Why do we buy? How do our acts of-and ideas about-consumption impact our selves, our institutions, and our societies? An incisive response to these questions, Why I Buyexplains how consumption came to give meaning and value to social and personal life. Balancing psychological, conceptual, and historical analyses with examples drawn from popular culture and mass media, Rami Gabriel traces the ways in which beliefs about the self-including dualism, individualism, and expressivism-influence consumer behavior. These understandings of the self, Gabriel argues, structure the values that Americans seek and find in consumer society; they therefore have structural consequences for our cultural, political, and economic lives. For example, Gabriel describes how imbalances in the institutions of participatory politics have directly resulted from a consumer society centered on powerful nongovernmental institutions and a scattered body of disengaged citizens whose social and individual needs are not primarily satisfied through civic involvement. By exploring the relationship between our individual needs and our institutions, Gabriel ultimately points the way toward transformations that could lead to a more sustaining and sustainable society.