Limits of Consumer Activism
Kim, Elaine M.
- Drawing on literature about consumerism and social movements, this article aims to explore the characteristics of a consumer society and the intersection of consumerism and activism. I then present four hypotheses that describe potential limitations of consumer activism. The first is that for consumption-based forms of activism, who can and cannot participate is heavily dependent on the individual... read more's amount of economic capital. The second is that politicized consumption is not a gateway into deeper involvement, but rather encourages superficial, temporary participation. The third is that the conditions needed for action become synchronized with those necessary for purchase, and thus individuals come to only support initiatives that can deliver quantifiable, measurable change. The last hypothesis is that what methods are perceived as an effective way to create social change becomes heavily limited. These hypotheses are tested in a case study of the Fair Trade Movement, based on in-depth interviews of participants in the Greater Boston area. These findings present a critical look at consumer activism campaigns, and add to the broader body of work regarding consumerism and/or social change.read less