Political Consumerism: Its Motivations, Power, and Conditions in the Nordic Countries and Elsewhere

Proceedings from the 2nd International Seminar on Political Consumerism, Oslo August 26–29, 2004

image of Political Consumerism: Its Motivations, Power, and Conditions in the Nordic Countries and Elsewhere

The concept of political consumerism draws on the observation that consumer choice and the rising politics of products is an increasingly important form of political participation, especially with regard to such issues as human rights, animal rights, global solidarity and environmental responsibility. The 2nd International Seminar on Political Consumerism was arranged to enhance our knowledge about political consumerism. This report includes revised versions of the papers that were presented and discussed at the seminar. Scholars from various disciplines presented papers that discussed and analyzed such topics as the characteristics of (especially Nordic) political consumers and their motivations to express their political concerns through market channels, how consumer power and individual choice can be linked to public influence, political and market conditions for the success, effectiveness, or failure of political consumerism as a regulatory tool, and the framing, mobilization, and organizational processes behind political consumerism.



A Case of Discursive Political Consumerism: The Nike e-mail exchange

Discursive political consumerism, the newest and most understudied form of political consumerism, is the focus of this paper. It investigates how the anti-sweatshop movement engaged in discursive political consumerism by using the Nike Email Exchange (NEE), which is estimated to have reached 11.4 people globally shortly after it was released electronically, as its case study. The paper uses the 3,655 emails received by the NEE originator as its main empirical material. This material is examined with a triangulation of methods: quantitative content analysis, qualitative textual (discourse) analysis as well as by situating the NEE in the history of the anti-sweatshop movement and in the literature on social movements and Internet activism. The study shows that scholarship on social movements is not able to explain newer forms of activism taking place in the virtual public sphere because it understands movement activism mostly as targeted at the nation-state or governmental institutions. Discursive political consumerism, however, uses the market as a political arena, targets corporations and challenges life styles and values of fellow citizens. Moreover, the case study also demonstrates that several of the fears about Internet activism expressed by social scientists need to be modified.


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