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Embracing ethical fields: constructing consumption in the margins

Shaw, Deirdre and Riach, Kathleen (2011) 'Embracing ethical fields: constructing consumption in the margins.' European Journal of Marketing, 45 (7/8). pp. 1051-1067. ISSN 0309-0566

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Abstract

Purpose Literature examining resistant consumer behaviour from an ethical consumption stance has increased over recent years. This paper argues that the conflation between ethical consumer behaviour and ‘anti-consumption’ practices results in a nihilistic reading and fails to uncover the tensions of those who seek to position themselves as ethical whilst still participating in the general market. Design/methodology/approach The study adopts an exploratory approach through semi-structured in-depth interviews with a purposive sample of 7 ethical consumers. Findings The analysis reveals the process through which ethical consumption is constructed and defined in relation to the subject position of the ‘ethical consumer’ and their interactions with the dominant market of consumption. Research limitations/implications This research is limited to a single country and location and focused on a specific consumer group. Expansion of the research to a wider group would be valuable. Practical implications The impact of ethical consumption on the wider field of consumption can be witnessed in the ‘mainstreaming’ of many ethical ideals. This highlights the potential movements of power between various stakeholders that occupy particular spaces of social action. Originality/value Understanding the analysis through Bourdieu’s concepts of field and the margins created between spaces of consumption we focus on the theoretical cross-section of practice between ethical and market-driven forms of consumption, advancing discussion by exploring how self-identified ‘ethical consumers’ defined, legitimatised and negotiated their practices in relation to consumption acts and lifestyles. Keywords Anti-consumption, ethical consumption, consumer decision-making, Bourdieu.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Essex Business School
Depositing User: Kathleen Riach
Date Deposited: 11 Nov 2011 09:42
Last Modified: 14 Nov 2011 10:26
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/1291

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