Affluence, Anti-Consumerism, and the Politics of Consumption

Kim Humphery

in The Oxford Handbook of Consumption

ISBN: 9780190695583
Published online December 2018 | e-ISBN: 9780190843113 | DOI:
Affluence, Anti-Consumerism, and the Politics of Consumption

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This chapter explores “anti-consumerist” critique and practice as articulated in a range of Western nations over the last two decades. It surveys the rise of a twenty-first-century consumption politics, identifying how it has coalesced around opposition to consumerism and overconsumption, while remaining elusive in the extent to which it advocates substantive social and economic change and in the degree to which it rejects or embraces consumption as an arena of agency. The chapter explores this ambiguity through discussion of two interconnected forms of recent consumption politics—“responsible” consumer choice and “alternative” enterprise—outlining the fractured and tenuous ways in which these practices speak of contestation and of the emancipatory in relation to consumption and consumer economies. The chapter concludes by recognizing the conceptual and ideological limits of contemporary consumption politics, while insisting also that it has significantly expanded the political and ethical sensibilities through which we understand the commodity and its impact.

Keywords: anti-consumerism; consumption politics; consumerism; overconsumption; ethical consumption; ethical enterprise

Article.  7329 words. 

Subjects: Political Sociology ; Economic Sociology

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