Collectivities in Consumption Ethics
On the 12th September 2016, we were delighted to hold our Autumn seminar of the ESRC Ethics in Consumption: Interdisciplinary Perspectives seminar series, which was hosted by the University of Glasgow Adam Smith Business School. The seminar, entitled 'Collectivities in Consumption Ethics', featured presentations from Professor Frank Trentmann, Birkbeck College, University of London; Dr Jo Littler, City University London; and Professor Michele Micheletti, Stockholm University.
This seminar moved beyond considerations of individual virtue to participation in collective action. Consideration was given to perceptions of success and influences on participation.
In considering the social embeddedness of the individual, Shaw et al. (2006a) show how ethical consumers evoke a “vaguely conceptualised perception of a wider collective participation”. This is reflected in research into local campaign groups, political consumption and consumption communities. We find, therefore that consumer and citizen roles are not necessarily mutually exclusive. That ethically concerned consumers have political, religious, spiritual, environmental, social or other motives for choosing one product over another, and are concerned with the impact of their consumption choices on other individuals (including future generations), society, animals and the environment goes beyond the individual to a collectivist societal orientation. Far from a homogenous collective, however, what is ‘ethical’ will encapsulate different expressions, concerns and issues across individuals, groups and socio-spatial contexts (Chatzidakis et al., 2012). These issues are often complex and also often linked and traded-off against each other, further increasing the complexity involved in consuming ethically.
Following the seminar attendees were invited to attend a book launch on Ethics and Morality in Consumption, co-authored by seminar organisers, Professor Deirdre Shaw, Dr Michal Carrington and Dr Andreas Chatzidakis.
Watch the interviews with our guest speakers who talk about their experience of ethical consumption:
Professor Frank Trentmann
Professor Frank Trentmann
Professor of History, Birkbeck College, University of London
Profile: Professor Frank Trentmann
Frank’s work has focused on consumption, political economy, trade and energy. He is a Professor of History at Birkbeck College, University of London. He has written about consumer culture; water and the modern city; materiality and history; free trade and fair trade, and the politics of everyday life. He is the principal investigator of the AHRC project “Material Cultures of Energy” (2014-17). He is also a member of the EPSRC–ESRC research centre DEMAND (Dynamics of Energy, Mobility and Demand). Frank was educated at Hamburg University, the London School of Economics (BA), and at Harvard University (MA, PhD). Before joining Birkbeck, he was Assistant Professor at Princeton University. He was the director of the £5 million Cultures of Consumption research programme, co-funded by ESRC and AHRC. He has also been a Visiting Fellow at the Cambridge Centre for History and Economics, Fernand Braudel Senior Fellow at the European University Institute, Florence as well as a Visiting Professor at Bielefeld University, the University of St Gallen, the British Academy, and the École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris. In 2014 I was awarded the Moore Distinguished Fellowship at Caltech.
His new book Empire of Things: How We Became a World of Consumers, Fifteenth Century to the Twenty-First unfolds the rise of our modern material world and examines the global challenges of our relentless pursuit of more – from waste and debt to stress and inequality. 880 pages, 72 illustrations. UK edition: Allen Lane/Penguin 28 January 2016; US edition HarperCollins 28 March 2016; a German edition will follow in 2017 with DVA, a Chinese translation with Ginkgo, audiobook: audible. For reviews, podcasts and further materials, visit: http://www.bbk.ac.uk/history/our-staff/academic-staff/professor-frank-trentmann/empire-of-things.
His previous publications include Free Trade Nation: Consumption, Civil Society and Commerce in Modern Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), which was awarded the Whitfield Prize by the Royal Historical Society; a Japanese edition will be published later in 2016 by NTT Publishing Co., Tokyo – for reviews, see the OUP web-site: http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780199567324.do; the Oxford Handbook of the History of Consumption (Oxford University Press, 2012; editor); Food and Globalization (Oxford: Berg, 2008, with Alexander Nützenadel); Beyond Sovereignty: Britain, Empire, and Transnationalism, c. 1860-1950 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007, edited with Kevin Grant and Philippa Levine); Consuming Cultures, Global Perspectives: Historical Trajectories, Transnational Exchanges (Oxford: Berg, 2006, with John Brewer); Time, Consumption, and Everyday Life (Oxford: Berg, 2009, with Elizabeth Shove and Rick Wilk). I have also published in major journals, including Past & Present, Journal of British Studies, Historical Journal, Journal of Historical Geography, Environment and Planning.
Professor Michele Micheletti
Professor Michele Micheletti
Michele Micheletti holds the Lars Hierta Chair of Political Science at Stockholm University and is the current President of the Swedish Political Science Association. Among her more recent publications are Political Consumerism. Global Responsibility in Action (together with Dietlind Stolle, Cambridge University Press 2013), “Sustainable Citizenship and the New Politics of Consumption,” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol 644 (2012) (together with Dietlind Stolle), and Political Virtue and Shopping. Individuals, Consumerism, and Collective Action (Palgrave, paperback, 2011). At present she is co-editing the Oxford Handbook on Political Consumerism and starting up research on how urban planning challenges representative democracy.
Dr Jo Littler
Dr Jo Littler
Reader, City University, London
Jo Littler is Reader in Cultural Industries in the Department of Sociology. She completed a PhD in Culture and Communication at the University of Sussex, and taught there and later at Middlesex University, where she worked in Media and Cultural Studies.
Her work explores questions of culture and power from an interdisciplinary, cultural studies-informed perspective, and has taken three main directions: first, work on cultures of anti-consumerism and ethical consumption; second, on the relationship between cultural institutions, heritage and display; and third, on the media and cultural industries, particularly concepts of celebrity and work. Her publications include the books The Politics of Heritage: the legacies of 'race' (co-edited with Roshi Naidoo, 2005); Radical Consumption? Shopping for change in contemporary culture (2008); and Anti-consumerism and cultural studies (co-edited with Sam Binkley, 2011). She is currently co-editing two journal issues (one on 'Intergenerational Feminisms' one on 'Spectacular Environmentalisms') and is writing a book on meritocracy and neoliberalism with the title Against Meritocracy: Culture, Power and Myths of Mobility.
Jo is on the editorial/advisory boards of Soundings: A Journal of Politics and Culture, Triple C, Celebrity Studies, New Formations and Cultural Studies. She is a co-investigator on the AHRC-funded Spectacular Environmentalisms Research Network and has been an external examiner for BA and MA degrees at Royal Holloway, LCC, Sussex and Goldsmiths. She has supervised several PhDs to completion and has examined a range of PhDs in the UK and Australia.
Like most people her consumption habits are varied. She has been known to be involved in organizing second-hand kids’ clothes sales, and has bought a range of disappointing objects from eBay. Her last purchase was a loaf of bread from Costcutter. This week she has been distributing campaigning leaflets against TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. This is a trade deal being negotiated between the EU and the US that wants to hand more power to bankers, loosen food safety laws and allow transnational corporations to sue democratically elected governments if they put health and welfare above corporate profit.
Littler, J. (2013). Meritocracy as plutocracy: the marketising of ‘equality’ within neoliberalism. New Formations: a journal of culture/theory/politics, 80-81, 52-72.
Littler, J. and Rustin, S. (2013). Green Shoots?’ Interview with Natalie Bennett. Soundings: A Journal of Politics and Culture, 53, 33.
Littler, J. (2013). The rise of the ‘yummy mummy’: popular conservatism and the neoliberal maternal in contemporary British culture. Communication, Culture and Critique, 6(2), 227-243. doi: 10.1111/cccr.12010
Goodman, M.K. and Littler, J. (2013). Celebrity Ecologies: Introduction. Celebrity Studies, 4(3), 269-275.
Littler, J. (2012). Good Housekeeping: Green products as consumer activism. Banet-Weiser, S. and Mukherji, R. (Ed.), Commodity Activism, NYU Press.
Littler, J. (2012). Consumerism. (Ed.), Oxford Bibliographies Online Oxford University Press.
Littler, J. (2011). What’s wrong with ethical consumption? Lewis, T. and Potter, E. (Ed.), Ethical Consumption: A Critical Introduction Routledge.
Binkley, S. and Littler, J. (2011). Cultural Studies and Anti-Consumerism. Routledge. ISBN: 0415669367.
Littler, J. (2009) Gendering anti-consumerism: consumer whores and conservative consumption in Kate Soper, Martin Ryle and Lyn Thomas (eds) The Politics and Pleasures of Consuming Differently: Better than Shopping. Palgrave .
Littler, Jo (2008) Radical Consumption. Open University Press.