Interpretations of ethical consumption

Emese Gulyás
2008 Review of Sociology  
During the last few years around a dozen boycotts have been called in Hungary; there are several ecologically and socially aware food-communities directly linking consumers and producers; at the end of 2006 a Fair Trade shop opened in Budapest, and there are product campaigns which accentuate various patriotic themes. All of these initiatives signal the emergence of new attitudes and values, a new type of behavior, that of ethical consumption. Ethical consumption, new kinds of consumer needs
more » ... influencing market culture through the creation of various market-niches (see corporate social responsibility); furthermore, the wide-scale spread of ethical consumption can even lead to the transformation of market functions. The modern market is going from a mainly economic space to an area of moral action, a tool of regulation and social participation. As a social movement ethical consumerism can effect political culture and play an important role in public policy aiming towards sustainable development. According to West-European literature as well as to concrete experience ethical consumerism is more and more playing this role, 1 the local appearance of the movement beckons the question: what sort of values and institutions characterize this new consumer culture, and which of these can we encounter in Hungary? The first part of this study deals with the phenomena of ethical consumption: it gives an overview of the literature, explicating the main research themes, and introducing its distinctive, most often examined forms of action. In the second part of the study, out of the interpretational possibilities, I look at ethical consumption as political consumption, as a form of social governance, examining its relevance as a way of public participation. I try to find an answer to the question whether the spread of ethical consumption should be imagined at the demise of classical political institutions, or as complementary to them, and which ethical issues are most likely to mobilize the public. The study is primarily based on data describing Hungarian political participatory culture, as well as an attitude survey of a representative sample. At the end of the study I will briefly refer to the possible causes of differences in ethical consumption attitudes and behaviors.
doi:10.1556/revsoc.14.2008.2 fatcat:comutz3n45gmlkt5ndiaamkclm