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Belk's (1988) "Possessions and the Extended Self" Revisited

Ladik, D.; Carrillat, F.; Tadajewski, M.

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D. Ladik

F. Carrillat

M. Tadajewski


Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to revisit Russell Belk’s (1988) landmark article “Possessions and the extended self”. We provide a prehistory of related ideas and then examine the controversy it triggered regarding the different paradigms of research in marketing (Cohen, 1989) some twenty six years ago. Design/methodology/approach - This paper takes Belk seriously when he argues that his work is a synthesis and extension of prior studies leading to the novel production of the “extended self” concept. Via a close reading of the history of self-constitution, we highlight a number of thinkers who were grappling with similar issues now associated in our disciplinary consciousness to the idea of the “extended self”. To assess the contribution of Belk’s work we engage in citation and interpretive analyses. The first analysis compared scholarly citations of Belk (1988) with the top ten most cited Journal of Consumer Research (JCR) articles published in the same year. The second citation analysis compared Belk (1988) to the top ten most cited JCR articles in the history of the Journal. We follow this with an interpretive analysis of Belk’s contribution to consumer research via his 1988 paper. Findings - Belk (1988) had the most citations (N=934) of any article published in JCR in 1988. When compared to all articles published in the history of JCR, Belk (1988) leads with the most overall citations. Moreover, Belk (1988) is the most prominent interpretive article that appeared in JCR and one of the top three regardless of paradigm. The analysis illustrates diversity in topic and methodology thus indicating that Belk’s contribution impacted a wide variety of scholars. Interpretive analysis indicates the importance of Belk’s work for subsequently impactful consumer researchers. Originality/value - We offer a prehistory of the “extended self” concept by highlighting literature that many consumer researchers will not have explored previously. With citations spanning over three decades, consumer behavior scholars recognize Belk (1988) as an important article. Our analysis reveals that contrary to received wisdom it is not only important for interpretive researchers or scholars within Consumer Culture Theory, it is significant for the entire discipline irrespective of paradigmatic orientation. The research presented here demonstrates that Belk’s (1988) article is arguably one of the most influential papers ever published in JCR.


Ladik, D., Carrillat, F., & Tadajewski, M. (2015). Belk's (1988) "Possessions and the Extended Self" Revisited. Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, 7(2), 184-207.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 23, 2014
Publication Date May 1, 2015
Deposit Date Jul 23, 2014
Publicly Available Date Dec 15, 2014
Journal Journal of Historical Research in Marketing
Print ISSN 1755-750X
Publisher Emerald
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 7
Issue 2
Pages 184-207


Accepted Journal Article (502 Kb)

Copyright Statement
This article is © Emerald Group Publishing and permission has been granted for this version to appear here Emerald does not grant permission for this article to be further copied/distributed or hosted elsewhere without the express permission from Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

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