现代社会学的三位“开国元勋”为消费社会学奠定了理论基础。卡尔·马克思提供了仍然广泛而有效地运用的“商品拜物教”概念，这表明劳动的社会关系被消费品所掩盖，这些消费品为其使用者带来了其他种类的象征价值。这个概念经常用于消费者意识和认同的研究。 ÉmileDurkheim关于宗教背景下物质对象的象征性，文化意义的着作已被证明对消费社会学有价值，因为它告知研究身份如何与消费相关，以及消费品如何在传统和仪式中发挥重要作用世界。马克斯·韦伯指出消费品在19世纪对社会生活的重要性日益增加时的中心地位，并提供了与今天的消费者社会，新教伦理和资本主义精神有用的比较。美国历史Thorstein Veblen关于“炫耀性消费”的讨论与创始人的同时代，对社会学家如何研究财富和地位的展示产生了极大的影响。活跃于二十世纪中叶的欧洲批判理论家也为消费社会学提供了宝贵的观点。 Max Horkheimer和Theodor Adorno撰写的关于“文化产业”的文章为理解大规模生产和大众消费的意识形态，政治和经济影响提供了重要的理论视角。赫伯特·马尔库塞（Herbert Marcuse）在他的“一维人”（One-Dimensional Man）一书中深入研究了这一点，他在其中将西方社会描述为充满消费者解决方案，旨在解决一个人的问题，并因此为实际的政治，文化和社会提供市场解决方案。问题。此外，美国社会学家大卫·里斯曼（David Riesman）的标志性着作“孤独的人群”（The Lonely Crowd）为社会学家如何研究人们如何通过消费来寻求验证和社区，通过在他们周围的人的形象中寻找和塑造自己，奠定了基础。最近，社会学家接受了法国社会理论家让·鲍德里亚关于消费品象征性货币的观点，并认真对待他认为将消费视为人类状况的普遍性的观点，这种观点掩盖了背后的阶级政治。同样，皮埃尔·布迪厄对消费品差异的研究和理论化，以及这些如何反映和再现文化，阶级和教育的差异和等级，是当今消费社会学的基石。
The three “founding fathers” of modern sociology laid the theoretical foundation for the sociology of consumption. Karl Marx provided the still widely and effectively used concept of “commodity fetishism,” which suggests that the social relations of labor are obscured by consumer goods that carry other kinds of symbolic value for their users. This concept is often used in studies of consumer consciousness and identity. Émile Durkheim’s writings on the symbolic, cultural meaning of material objects in a religious context have proved valuable to the sociology of consumption, as it informs studies of how identity is connected to consumption, and how consumer goods play an important role in traditions and rituals around the world. Max Weber pointed to the centrality of consumer goods when he wrote about the growing importance of them to social life in the 19th century, and provided what would become a useful comparison to today’s society of consumers, in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. A contemporary of the founding fathers, American Historical Thorstein Veblen’s discussion of “conspicuous consumption” has been greatly influential to how sociologists study the display of wealth and status. European critical theorists active in the mid-twentieth century also provided valuable perspectives to the sociology of consumption. Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno’s essay on “The Culture Industry” offered an important theoretical lens for understanding the ideological, political, and economic implications of mass production and mass consumption. Herbert Marcuse delved deeply into this in his book One-Dimensional Man, in which he describes Western societies as awash in consumer solutions that are meant to solve one’s problems, and as such, provide market solutions for what are actually political, cultural, and social problems. Additionally, American sociologist David Riesman’s landmark book, The Lonely Crowd, set the foundation for how sociologists would study how people seek validation and community through consumption, by looking to and molding themselves in the image of those immediately around them. More recently, sociologists have embraced French social theorist Jean Baudrillard’s ideas about the symbolic currency of consumer goods, and take seriously his claim that seeing consumption as a universal of the human condition obscures the class politics behind it. Similarly, Pierre Bourdieu’s research and theorizing of the differentiation between consumer goods, and how these both reflect and reproduce cultural, class, and educational differences and hierarchies, is a cornerstone of today’s sociology of consumption.