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.



Private Choice and Public Influence: Political consumers behind the mirror of the market

The notion of political consumption has two implications: First, consumers wield some kind of power that they can use to effect social change through the marketplace. Second, political consumption refers to and somehow combines the rationalities of two subsystems, politics and the economy. Yet regarding their everyday, highly individualized shopping decisions, consumers do not appear to command a great deal of power. What kind of influence, then, can individual economic decisions have on corporate policies? Is that influence robust enough to attribute power to consumers? And if consumers do indeed have power, how can we conceive the implied translation of political concerns into the monetary logic of the economy? An answer to those questions needs to take into account the societal context of political consumption. This paper analyses how political consumerism relates to the functional differentiation of modern society and how a sociological concept of the market can help us understand its efficacy.


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