Consumer Movements

Matthew Hilton

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Consumption

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199561216
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

Consumer Movements


The phenomena of consumer organizing, consumer protesting, consumer activism, and consumer movements are not confined to recent decades. While many consumers have undoubtedly displayed a voracious appetite for getting ever more stuff, others have demonstrated an engaged form of citizenship eager to inject morality and politics into the marketplace. Yet for all that the study of consumption has expanded exponentially over the last three decades, it is only relatively recently that our knowledge of these movements has come anywhere close to catching up with what is known about, say, consumer psychology, consumer marketing, consumer economics, or the cultural practices of shoppers. This article examines why scholars of consumption have turned to an analysis of consumer activism, offers a broad chronology of consumer movements to show the different types of consumer politics that have emerged over the last 200 years, and looks at some of the areas to which future scholars of consumption and social movements might turn their attention.

Keywords: consumer movements; consumer activism; consumer organizing; consumer protesting; consumption; consumers; consumer politics; social movements

Article.  8030 words. 

Subjects: History

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