Introduction: managing the ‘unmanageable consumer’

Martin Powell, Shane Doheny, Ian Greener and Nick Mills

in The consumer in public services

Published by Policy Press

Published in print April 2009 | ISBN: 9781847421814
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781447303725 | DOI:
Introduction: managing the ‘unmanageable consumer’

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This chapter aims to widen the focus on the consumer of public services, beyond ‘the consumer as chooser’. If New Labour's citizens can be ‘activated, empowered, responsibilised, or abandoned’, then New Labour's consumers can be equally diverse. After briefly examining the broader context of citizens, consumers, and clients in the welfare state, the chapter focuses on consumerism of public services. Much recent writing tends to ignore a rich and diverse history of consumerism and choice in public services. The chapter then examines the different faces of the consumer, before turning to focus on the varied mechanisms of choice. It concludes that focusing on one face of consumerism and on a few mechanisms of choice oversimplifies the great diversity associated with the terms, and raises the question of whether consumerism in public services may be contextual: different faces and mechanisms may work for different people in different contexts.

Keywords: consumerism; public services; choice mechanisms; New Labour

Chapter.  6032 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social Movements and Social Change

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