A1 Journal article (refereed)
‘A bigger living room required a bigger TV’ : doing and negotiating necessity in well-to-do households (2020)

Aro, R. (2020). ‘A bigger living room required a bigger TV’ : doing and negotiating necessity in well-to-do households. Journal of Consumer Culture, 20(4), 498-520. https://doi.org/10.1177/1469540517745706

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editors: Aro, Riikka

Journal or series: Journal of Consumer Culture

ISSN: 1469-5405

eISSN: 1741-2900

Publication year: 2020

Volume: 20

Issue number: 4

Pages range: 498-520

Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd.

Publication country: United Kingdom

Publication language: English

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1469540517745706

Publication open access: Not open

Publication channel open access:


This article investigates how necessity is ‘done’ and ‘negotiated’ in Finnish well-to-do households’ domestic practices and asks whether and how households are engaged in sustainable practices. The main research material consists of 14 in-depth interviews. In this study, necessities are viewed as something that householders perceive they ‘cannot manage without’ in their normal domestic daily life. At collective level, necessity is considered to construct ‘expectation horizons’: what is considered normal for people to have and to desire and how to live their lives normally within a certain socio-economic frame. With a novel theoretical approach, this article views necessity through three kinds of agentic capacities: distributed agency in the material world, socio-cultural surroundings and mental and bodily dispositions. This article contributes to the ongoing discussion on the problematics of rising living standards and household sustainability efforts. The findings show that in carrying out daily life, the leeway provided by higher income and education collides with the internalised ethos of ‘not wasting’ (habitus), lack of seeing real possibilities and often blurred views of responsibilities and power to pursue sustainability. Sustainability is seen as distant to daily life and as an inconvenience that requires familiarisation, time and/or money. It also lacks practical meaning. Instead, domestic necessity contributes to personal and family well-being and effortlessness and straightforwardness in daily life. This article provides three key conclusions. First, any vision or innovation for pursuing sustainability is inadequate if it does not carry meaning in everyday functionality. Second, it is important to critically account for the ‘stickiness’ (capacities for resisting change) of non-negotiable parts of domestic practices with embedded consumption of materials, water and electricity; third, based on the previous two, research and policy should take seriously the difficulty of thinking or seeing outside of the ‘expectation horizons’ that incorporate the co-evolving aspirations and conventions.

Keywords: sociology of consumption; consumer behaviour; consumer habits; standard of living; everyday life; high income people; sustainable consumption; necessity

Free keywords: household practices; daily life; distributed agency; environmental sustainability

Contributing organizations

Ministry reporting: Yes

Reporting Year: 2020

JUFO rating: 1

Last updated on 2022-19-08 at 19:50