collective consumptionany consumption of goods and services whose provision and management, to a degree, ‘cannot be other than collective’, and which the private sector finds it unprofitable to provide (Castells, 1977). Among such goods and services identified by Castells were public transport, housing, and leisure provision. The term was introduced by Castells in an attempt to achieve a focus on the distinctive features of URBAN SOCIAL MOVEMENTS, which he viewed as above all seeking to influence and control the spatially-bounded collective consumption units provided in the urban context.
Subsequently, the term has been taken up by other political sociologists and political scientists (e.g. Dunleavy, 1980) and used in a more general way as the basis of an overall analysis of SECTORAL DIVISIONS which cut across more conventional divisions of class: above all, the distinction between those who, as consumers or workers, are main beneficiaries of collective consumption, and those who are not. Both in Castells' work and in later inquiries, the focus on collective consumption emphasizes the tension between the necessity for collective provision of some goods and services, and the burden on capital which this provision represents (see also STATE EXPENDITURES, FISCAL CRISIS IN THE CAPITALIST STATE). It is this conflict that is seen as both generating urban social movements and as making sectoral divisions an important dimension of political cleavage in modern capitalist societies.