Despite tempting parallels between contemporary theories of biological evolution and the commonplace adaptation of products in varying cultures and circumstances, any apparent support for notions of market‐based Social Darwinism is seen as misplaced. Closely observed examples from Japanese commerce show that exchanges of goods, ideas and people involve processes of “bricolage” whereby consumers’ individual and collective skills in trading words and things enable the retention and repair of their various social standings as well as their broader ethical and cultural assumptions. These multiplying interpretations are the bases of our everyday lives and the route by which inequalities in popular access to power, language and goods reflect and reinforce other imbalances evident in the workings of both market economies and consumer cultures.
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