The University of Southampton
University of Southampton Institutional Repository

Globalising the consumer: doing politics in an ethical register

Clarke, N., Barnett, C., Cloke, P. and Malpass, A. (2007) Globalising the consumer: doing politics in an ethical register Political Geography, 26, (3), pp. 231-249. (doi:10.1016/j.polgeo.2006.10.009).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Consumerism is often held to be inimical to collective deliberation and decision-making of the sort required to address pressing environmental, humanitarian and global justice issues. Policy interventions and academic discourse alike often assume that transforming consumption practices requires interventions that address people as consumers. This paper questions the assumption that the politics of consumption naturally implies a problematisation of consumer identities; it argues that this connection between consumption and consumers is a contingent achievement of strategically motivated actors with specific objectives in the public realm. This argument is developed through a case study of ethical consumption campaigning in the UK. Existing work in geography on alternative food networks, commodity chains and fair trade acknowledges the political intentions of such initiatives but also expresses unease about the registers of ‘consumption’, ‘ethics’ and ‘responsibility’ in which they are embedded. Focussing on the discursive interventions used in ethical consumption campaigns, we argue that these are not primarily aimed at encouraging generic consumers to recognise themselves for the first time as ‘ethical’ consumers. Rather, they aim to provide information to people already disposed to support or sympathise with certain causes; information that enables them to extend their concerns and commitments into everyday consumption practices. These acts of consumption are in turn counted, reported, surveyed and represented in the public realm by organisations that speak for the ‘ethical consumer’. These campaigns also provide supporters and sympathisers with narrative storylines. We focus on one of these storylines, which re-inscribes popular discourses of globalisation into a narrative in which people are ascribed various responsibilities by virtue of their activities as consumers but also empowered to act ethically and politically in and through these activities. We conclude that ethical consumption campaigning is a political phenomenon in which everyday consumption practices are reconstituted as the sites for citizenly acts that reach beyond the realm of consumption per se.

PDF Globalising_the_Consumer_FAVPPR.pdf - Other
Download (97kB)

More information

Published date: March 2007
Additional Information: This paper makes the novel argument that ethical consumption is a political phenomenon (and not just an economic phenomenon). This argument is supported by narrative analysis undertaken as part of a major research project funded between the ESRC and AHRB. The paper was co-written, with Nick Clarke taking the lead.
Keywords: Citizenship, Ethical consumption, Genealogy, Globalisation, Governmentality, Mobilisation

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 43304
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/43304
ISSN: 0962-6298
PURE UUID: dd9cc90e-6a2d-4c11-8a94-b7747c443461

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 22 Jan 2007
Last modified: 17 Jul 2017 15:19

Export record

Altmetrics

Contributors

Author: N. Clarke
Author: C. Barnett
Author: P. Cloke
Author: A. Malpass

University divisions

Download statistics

Downloads from ePrints over the past year. Other digital versions may also be available to download e.g. from the publisher's website.

View more statistics

Atom RSS 1.0 RSS 2.0

Contact ePrints Soton: eprints@soton.ac.uk

ePrints Soton supports OAI 2.0 with a base URL of http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/cgi/oai2

This repository has been built using EPrints software, developed at the University of Southampton, but available to everyone to use.

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.

×