Edited by Tania Lewis and Emily Potter
A not-so-quiet revolution seems to be occurring in wealthy capitalist societies - supermarkets selling ‘guilt free’ Fairtrade products; lifestyle TV gurus exhorting us to eat less, buy local and go green; neighbourhood action groups bent on ‘swopping not shopping’. And this is happening not at the margins of society but at its heart, in the shopping centres and homes of ordinary people. Today we are seeing a mainstreaming of ethical concerns around consumption that reflects an increasing anxiety with - and accompanying sense of responsibility for - the risks and excesses of contemporary lifestyles in the ‘global north’.
This collection of essays provides a range of critical tools for understanding the turn towards responsible or conscience consumption and, in the process, interrogates the notion that we can shop our way to a more ethical, sustainable future. Written by leading international scholars from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds - and drawing upon examples from across the globe - Ethical Consumption makes a major contribution to the still fledgling field of ethical consumption studies. This collection is a must-read for anyone interested in the relationship between consumer culture and contemporary social life.
Sarah M. Hall on Journal of Consumer Culture wrote:
Several themes run through this anthology. First, many authors argue convincingly that there are no simple solutions to the environmental and social problems created by neo-liberal capitalist production and marketing strategies. [...] Second, ethical assessments based on simplistic, dichotomously construed binary categories, such as good/bad, us/them, individual/collective and local/global, conceal important ways of thinking and acting which integrate, or blur, as the case may, different levels of understanding and action. [...] Third, an understanding of the phrase “the ethics of consumption” can be achieved by means of descriptions of the complexity and ambiguity of practices supposedly aimed at the good of individuals, communities, animals and the environment. Ethics, as we see it at work in these writings, consists in subtle, nuanced, careful understandings of the micro-politics of everyday life, of micro-mobilization and counter-hegemonic movements, as well as careful attention to the cagey responses to these pressures by corporations like Walmart, Nike and Apple, in their efforts to appear socially responsible. Fourth, various local strategies for alternative living are placed within the larger context of the global political economy. [...] The range of the book is such that it is difficult to imagine any reader not finding fascinating, often concealed facts, interesting “takes” and up-to-date research"
"Tania Lewis and Emily Potter, as the editors of the collection, have pieced together a set of refined essays that work very well together but also stand alone strongly. The book is quick to read and easy to digest. Each chapter is written in an intelligible and accessible manner, balanced with the authors’ engagement with complicated concepts and well fleshed-out arguments. The collection is separated into four parts made up of 18 chapters [...] it is not fully explained why these themes were chosen or what this structure adds to the book. [...] in putting together a ‘critical introduction’, it is important for the intentions of the book to be clear, particularly to those readers for whom ‘introduction’ is the operative word. There is also very little interweaving of the essays, whereby more signposting between chapters would have helped to better draw together the collection. Furthermore, although perhaps unintentionally, the chapters tend to each fit rather neatly into exploring one particular mode of ethical consumption, be it ecotourism, second-hand consumption or the slow food movement, and so on. By continuing to segment ethical consumption into specific practices as opposed to a variety of perspectives, this seems to somewhat undermine the aims of the collection, which was to explore a variety of ‘perspectives’ on (as opposed to devices of) ethical consumption. [...] Regarding content, only a small number of chapters in the collection draw on empirical research, and those that do, often neglect to discuss their choice of methodology. [...] More studies of ethical consumption from the global south or developing world would have been a welcome addition. That said, the collection is theoretically challenging and thought-provoking, and provides evidence of the stimulating and ever-evolving nature of literatures on ethics and consumption."
Table of Contents
Part 1: Introduction
- Introducing Ethical Consumption (Tania Lewis and Emily Potter)
Part 2: Politics
- What's Wrong with Ethical Consumption? (Jo Littler)
- The Simple and the Good: Ethical Consumption as Anti-Consumerism (Kim Humphery)
- Fair Trade in Cyberspace: The Commodification of Poverty and the Marketing of Crafts on the Internet (Tim Scrase)
- Neo-liberalism, the 'Obesity Epidemic' and the Challenge to Theory (Michael Gard)
Part 3: Commodities and Materiality
- Placing Alternative Consumption: Commodity Fetishism in Borough Fine Foods Market, London (Benjamin Coles and Philip Crang)
- Feeding the World: Towards a Messy Ethics of Eating (Elspeth Probyn)
- Drinking to Live: The Work of Ethically-Branded Bottled Water (Emily Potter)
- Ethical Consumption, Sustainable Production, and Wine (Paul Starr)
- Eco-ethical Electronic Consumption in the 'Smart-design' Economy (Richard Maxwell and Toby Miller)
- The Ethics of Second Hand Consumption (Adrian Franklin)
- Is Green the New Black? Exploring Ethical Fashion Consumption (Chris Gibson and Elyse Stanes)
Part 4: Practices, Sites and Representatives
- Slow Living and the Temporalities of Sustainable Consumption (Wendy Parkins and Geoff Craig)
- Ethical Consumption Begins at Home: Green Renovations, Eco-Homes and Sustainable Home Improvement (Fiona Allon)
- Cultivating Citizen-subjects Through Collective Praxis: Organized Gardening Projects in Australia and Philippines (Kersty Hobson and Ann Hill)
- Lifestyle Television: Gardening and the Good Life (Frances Bonner)
- 'Caring at a Distance': The Ambiguity and Negotiations of Ethical Investment (Cathy Greenfield and Peter Williams)
- The Moral Terrains of Ecotourism and the Ethics of Consumption (Robert Mechior Figuera and Gordon Waitt)