Ethical Consumption: On Being a Consumer and Being Good

Just published: ‘Ethical Consumption: The Case of Fairtrade’ in: Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie, Sonderheft 9: Wirtschaftssoziologie (Hrsg. Jens Becker, Christoph Deutschmann), pp.366-85

Neoliberal capitalism incorporates consumption as a realm of freedom and thus as a central field for expressing authentic selfhood. But this freedom also defines consumers as ultimately responsible for their choices, rendering the construction and expression of self in consumption potentially a moral project. Ethical consumption actualises this potential, as it is not only an attempt to use market power to achieve moral and/or political aims (doing good) but also a practice in which consumers can construct and express themselves as ethical persons (being good). In order to achieve this end, acts of ethical consumption need to be communicated as the expression of an authentic character disposition. 1 argue that this outcome is mainly achieved through linking the moral cause up to an aesthetic preference structure in what I describe as “ethical taste” and as “taste for ethics”. The authenticity of the thus constituted ethical self is warranted by referring back to a promise of equitable exchange implied by the everyday practice of consumer capitalism.


open access pre-publication manuscript

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