23rd October 2014

Creating the Responsible Consumer: Ethnographic Insights from Davos

I have written two pieces about a recently published co-authored Journal of Consumer Research study on market systems and consumer subjectivity that might be of interest to Charisma readers. One is an essay is published on Open Democracy, the other in the Baffler. I am also happy to make the full article available here.
Responsible consumption conventionally stems from an increased awareness of the impact of consumption decisions on the environment, and on consumer health, and society in general. In the paper, entitled “Creating the Responsible Consumer: Moralistic Governance Regimes and Consumer Subjectivity” (October 2014), my co-author Ela Veresiu and I theorize the influence of moralistic governance regimes on consumer subjectivity to make the opposite case: responsible consumption requires the active creation and management of consumers as moral subjects.

Using a governmentality approach, we introduce four processes of consumer responsibilization that, together, comprise the P.A.C.T. routine (personalization, authorization, capabilization, and transformation). After that, we draw on a longitudinal analysis of problem-solving initiatives at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to explore the role of P.A.C.T. in the creation of four, now commonplace, responsible consumer subjects: the bottom-of-the-pyramid consumer, the green consumer, the health-conscious consumer, and the financially literate consumer. Our analysis informs extant macro-level theorizations of market and consumption systems. We also contribute to prior accounts of responsibilization, marketplace mythologies, consumer subjectivity, and transformative consumer research (TCR).