The thesis explores the significance of material objects in the
everyday life of contemporary individuals. It is suggested that the
relationship between individuals and objects in modern /contemporary
society is a peculiar one. This peculiarity derives from the essential and crucial role things play: they contribute to shape and
support the individual's identity in a context of fragmentation of the
work experience and of the whole life, of anonymity and depersonalization of social relations, of bureaucratization and accelerated
In the first part of the dissertation the topic is discussed and
developed mainly at a theoretical level. A revisitation of well -known
authors intends to recover what has been said - explicitly or otherwise - on the social meanings and uses of objects in modern society.
A review and critique of express discussions of the functions performed
by objects - e.g., the literature on consumer behaviour, on possession
and exchange of goods in different cultures, on the psychological and
symbolical significance of things - provide the framework to understand
the complexity of our relationship to things and the multiplicity of
meanings and projections attached to them.
In the second part of the dissertation the results of a small - scale, exploratory, qualitatively oriented, empirical investigation of
people who experience a peculiar relationship to objects are discussed.
Through the analysis of this empirical material several interesting
features of our relationship to things emerge quite clearly: gender
differences in the way of relating to the material world; the
limited relevance of the concept of status symbol to explain the reasons why we surround ourselves with objects; the great emotional
significance attached to things; the essential role objects play in
providing the individual with material for the presentation of one's
self and to communicate symbolically with others.
It is concluded that the analysis of the meanings and uses of
objects in everyday life provides interesting elements to understand
how the individual copes with the problems contemporary industrial
society raises for the establishment and maintenance of personal