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Sustainable Consumption Research as Democratic Expertise

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Abstract

Academic proponents of sustainable consumption have marshaled considerable evidence over the past decade to support calls for more efficacious lifeways among residents of the world’s developed countries. Policymakers continue, however, to resist these recommendations because sustainable consumption runs counter to dominant tenets of neo-liberal economics and conventional political objectives. Unless investigators in the field can identify a cadre of clients that is interested in forming tacit partnerships, the concept of sustainable consumption is likely to remain little more than a prospective pursuit. This article suggests that there are some nascent indications that these kinds of alliances are developing. For sustainable consumption to take root in the policy sphere, it will be necessary to more actively foster these relationships and to cast this form of knowledge as a form of democratic counter-expertise that challenges elite economic and political institutions that regularly appropriate and deploy consumer science to advance their own interests.
Maurie J. Cohen
Sustainable Consumption Research
as Democratic Expertise
ABSTRACT. Academic proponents of sustainable consumption have marshaled con-
siderable evidence over the past decade to support calls for more efficacious lifeways
among residents of the world’s developed countries. Policymakers continue, however, to
resist these recommendations because sustainable consumption runs counter to domi-
nant tenets of neo-liberal economics and conventional political objectives. Unless
investigators in the field can identify a cadre of clients that is interested in forming tacit
partnerships, the concept of sustainable consumption is likely to remain little more than
a prospective pursuit. This article suggests that there are some nascent indications that
these kinds of alliances are developing. For sustainable consumption to take root in the
policy sphere, it will be necessary to more actively foster these relationships and to cast
this form of knowledge as a form of democratic counterexpertise that challenges elite
economic and political institutions that regularly appropriate and deploy consumer
science to advance their own interests.
It has been nearly 15 years since the international community gathered
at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and first pledged to work
toward more sustainable patterns of consumption. This commitment
was subsequently renewed in 2002 at the World Summit on Sustain-
able Development in Johannesburg when delegates called upon
the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to formulate a
10-year framework to foster sustainable consumption. While these
expressions of resolve have spurred the formation of some new aca-
demic alliances, catalyzed a few national initiatives, and mobilized
novel forms of social and political activism, it is decidedly difficult to
identify much tangible evidence of genuine and unambiguous progress
advancing this particular agenda (Fuchs & Lorek, 2005).
The political ambivalence that characterizes sustainable consump-
tion can be attributed to five paradoxes inherent in the co ncept. First,
the notion runs counter to prevailing neo-liberal ideals and challenges
the pervasive illusion of consumer sovereignty that exists in most
developed countries. Second, efforts to create autonomous analytic
space for sustainable consumption have been repeatedly thwarted by
Journal of Consumer Policy (2006) 29:67–77 Ó Springer 2006
DOI 10.1007/s10603-005-6050-1
competing pressure to subsume it under the more affable rubric
afforded by its sister concept sustainable production. Third, en-
hanced consumpt ion efficiency and the growth of nominally ‘‘green’’
consumer preferences both tend to give rise to perverse rebound ef-
fects. Fourth, consumer policymaking in most advanced countries is
an extremely disorganized pursuit with regulatory responsibilities
generally fragmented across numerous administrative entities. Finally,
common interpretations of ‘‘the consumers’ interest’’ do not normally
endorse policy programs with the purposeful intent of reducing the
volume of consumption or the range of choices.
1
These obstacles pose formidable barriers to the formulation of
policy program s to encourage more sustainable consumption. There is
nevertheless a somewhat separable dilemma at the heart of this situ-
ation and efforts to get to grips with it could create some momentum
for moving beyond the current impasse. More specifically, it is nec-
essary to span the chasm between academicians researching sustain-
able consumption and policymakers in national and transnational
governments.
The last decade has seen considerable progres s in the development
of an expansive technical repertoire with which to diagnosis currently
unsustainable consumption practices. Investigators employ increas-
ingly sophisticated methodologies such as input–output analysis, life-
cycle assessment, material-flow accounting, environmental-space cal-
culations, ecological-footprint analysis, and food-miles/kilometers
computations.
2
Environmental social scientists have concomitantly
sought to link the biophysical burdens of consumption with the
ways that consumerism permeates contempor ary culture (Cohen &
Murphy, 2001; Princen, Maniates, & Conca, 2002; Shove, 2003;
Southerton, Chappels, & van Vliet, 2005).
3
These developments,
however, have not been matched by commensurate progress devising
actual policy initiatives to foster more socially and ecologically benign
provisioning pr actices.
SUSTAINABLE CONSUMPTION AND DEMOCRATIC EXPERTISE
Let us take a somewhat stylized look at how knowledge production is
typically conceived. The popular myth is that disinterested researchers
go about their scientific business and, at an appropriate time, the
larger society will discover and appropriate the fruits of this labor.
Maurie J. Cohen
68
Moreover, overly assertive efforts by research workers to project their
insights beyond their own academic circle are taken to be unseemly
abrogations of inviolable codes of conduct.
While this naı
¨
ve view is widely propagated an d formalized in
innumerable ways, proponents of novel scientific ideas are themselves
likely to recognize that their success is, in actual fact, conting ent on an
ability to nurture clients who are inclined to champion the expertise
they have to proffer. Cohen and Howard (2006) express this require-
ment in the following terms:
[F]or a new form of knowledge production to achieve institutional standing, it must
cultivate a viable clientele. Physics has achieved prominence during the past century in
large part because its nuclear and ballistics expertise guaranteed a durable relationship
with military planners and other politically influential patrons. Similarly, economics
owes its stature to an ability to provide entrepreneurs and political actors with tools
to track, interpret, and extrapolate changes in trade and industrial organization; and
geology has provided knowledge that helped satisfy a technological society’s appetite
for natural resources such as coal, oil, and precious minerals.
This important factor has to date been largely overlooked in discussions
about sustainable consumption. There is presently an awkward incon-
sistency between the acknowledged problems engendered by dominant
provisioning practices and actual efforts to ameliorate their adverse
impacts. Under current circumstances, sustainable consumption is at
risk of becoming a parlor game played by a handful of well-meaning, but
ultimately ineffectual, researchers rather than a discourse capable of
moving developed countries toward more efficacious lifeways.
This untoward situation is the result of a deeply seated scholarly
predisposition that favors technical analysis over the articulation of
pragmatic strategy and the recruitment of supportive allies. Informal
systems of professional socialization impart upon aspiring scientists a
palpable anxiety about taking too keen an interest in worldly affairs
and, upon embarking on their careers, most of them shrink from such
engagement. Individuals who do demonstrate a penchant for public
undertakings risk being censured by disciplinary gatekeepers, institu-
tional superiors, and professional peers. An optimal approach would
arguably entail a balance between abstruse methods and prudent
praxis, but reified distinctions between science and engineering on one
hand and politics on the other remain difficult impediments to this
synthesis (Fisc her, 1990; Sarewitz, 1996).
It is by fostering a clie ntele that nascent academic pursuits grow
into venerated disciplines. Sustainable consumption is quite clearly at
Sustainable Consumption Research
69
a very early stage of this process (and there is no certainty that it will
successfully mature). The field enjoys none of the perquisites dis-
tinguished professorships, degree-granting programs, esteemed jour-
nals, secure funding streams of more establis hed areas of inquir y. At
the same time, these signifiers are likely to remain elusive unless the
cadre of active scholars is able to identify clients who value the
knowledge they have to impart an d are prepared to form tacit part-
nerships.
Fortunately, there are suitable models that can provide some
guidance on how to pro ceed. The discipline of ecology, at least as it
was practiced during the 1960s and 1970s, offers one prominent
exemplar. It is instructive to recall that the term ‘‘ecologist’’ at one
time simultaneously connoted both a scientific endeavor and a means
of political expression (Golley, 1993; Hagen, 1992). For one to identify
herself as an ecologist during this earlier era was not only to convey
command over a specific set of scientific skills, but also to express
allegiance to certain political ideals. Government officials were strug-
gling at the same time to make sense of a growing number of emergent
environmental challenges and they came to place a high value on
ecological knowledge (Bocking, 1997; Worster, 1994). Under such
circumstances, a symbiotic and mutually reinforcing relationship
developed between ecologists and policymakers and this codependence
contributed to the field’s growing prestige.
While ecology may have represented at one time an instructive
model of how to blend science and politics, institutionalization ulti-
mately left this scientific pursuit estranged from the wider world. The
rift has grown sufficiently wide in the eyes of some influential observers
that philanthropic foundations have begun to seed projects to recul-
tivate ecologists’ affinity for public engagement.
A corresponding phenomenon is discernible within the consumer
sciences. While the study of consumer behavior never achieved the
same public stature that ecology once enjoyed, scholarship in this area
coalesced similarly around a hybridized combination of rigorous
inquiry and social critique (Furlough & Strikwerda, 1999; Hilton,
2003; Mayer, 1989). By the 1980s, however, a familiar process of civic
withdrawal had become manifest and consumer researchers indulged
in increasingly recondite topics that had little relevance to the lives
of ordinary people. Moreover, during this period, many ‘‘consumer
experts’’ found themselves working for large corporations and this
employment pattern inevitably led to the adoption of a particular set
Maurie J. Cohen
70
of political and economic values.
4
The indomitability of prominent
consumer organizations in Europe tempered this trend to some extent,
while in the United States institutional capacity to protect consumer
interests was seriously disabled over the course of the last few decades.
Accordingly, when popular concerns regarding, for example, the
implications of industrial agriculture on human well-being and the
privatization of public services on social welfare came to the fore
during the 1990s, European consumer advocates were able to marshal
technical and political resources in support of consumer interests.
It is still unclear though how we might envisage the relationship
between sustainable consumption researchers and their putative clients.
The nature of this collaboration actually speaks to a larger question of
how technical knowledge can be used most effectively to inform poli-
cymaking. A small group of scholars working at the confluence of
science studies, technology policy, and political science has begun in
recent years to grapple with this problem and to develop the concept of
‘‘democratic expertise’’ (Fischer, 1990; Hoppe, 2005; Woodhouse &
Nieusma, 2001). These scholars identify a need to level the playing field
among different constituencies and to redeploy expert ise to support
broader civic objectives. More specifically, democratic expertise is
viewed as progressive counterexpertise that explicitly seeks to assist
disadvantaged, underfunded, or underempowered lay organizations
participate effectively in public controversies, especially by helping
them to overcome the vastly disproportionate ability of elite groups to
employ experts.
5
Who then might be fitting collaborators in the production and uti-
lization of democratic expertise with respect to sustainable consump-
tion? First, there are indications that enterprising officials in national
and European-level governing bodies are now furtively reaching out to
researchers for data and insights to help advance innovative environ-
mental and consumer policy initiatives (e.g., Sustainable Development
Commission, 2004; see also Spangenberg, 2004). These relationships
should be actively encouraged. Second, sustainable consumption
research would likely benefit from closer alliance with the growing
number of advocacy organizations forming to represent a new gener-
ation of critical consumers (Cohen, Comrov, & Hoffner, 2005; Kozinets
& Handelman, 2004; Littler, 2005; Maniates, 2002; Micheletti, 2003;
Micheletti, Follesdal, & Stolle, 2004; Rumbo, 2002; Stolle, Hooghe, &
Micheletti, 2005).
6
Finally, researchers shou ld take notice of adjacent
policy areas where overlapping issues are undergoing processes of social
Sustainable Consumption Research
71
problematization since such avenues are likely to offer fertile oppor-
tunities to launch discussions about alternative provisioning practices.
These strategic windows will necessarily vary across different national
contexts and evolve over time; in the United States, obesity, automobile
dependency, and personal bankruptcy currently represent such possi-
bilities (Cohen, 2005a, b, 2006).
To engage effectively with its incipient clients, the ambit of sus-
tainable consumption research will likely need to be expanded. Because
of its salience and high degree of politicization as a consumption do-
main, it would likely be prudent to give food a priority position as a
topic for future investigation. There are also indications of a new
willingness in some places to acknowledge the dysfunctional condition
of the current surface transportation system. A resurgence of interest in
car-sharing schemes and vehicle-free urban zones, as well as purposive
campaigns to impede the movement of traffic in central-city districts,
may mark the beginning of a newly invigorated politics of automobility
(Vigar, 2002; see also Blickstein & Hanson, 2001). The pernicious ef-
fects of advertising is an other area in which sustainable consumption
scholarship presumably has something valuable to say, but has to date
been relatively quiet.
7
A final recommendation, consistent with the
view that household provisioning is necessarily embedded in a broader
array of social practices, would be to analytically link sustainable
consumption with current public discussions regarding working hours,
leisure, and quality of life (Gatersleben, 2001; Jackson, 2005; Martens
& Spaargaren, 2005; Reisch, 2001; Sanches, 2005; Sanne, 2005; Schor,
2005; Spaargaren & van Vliet , 2000).
CONCLUSION
Though the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in the United State s
issued two reports that touched on the role of consumpt ion as a driver
of global environmental degradation during the lead up to the 1992
Earth Summit, scholarly work more generally did not play a promi-
nent role in these initiatives.
8
The initial impetus instead came from
several non-governmental organizations an d a small group of sec-
ondary policy institutions the Nordic Council and the Organization
for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) maintained
this momentum.
9
It was against this background that the NAS and the
Royal Society of London published their 1997 joint statement entitled
Maurie J. Cohen
72
Toward Sustainabl e Consumption. While this document propelled the
issue forward, sustainable consumption did not really begin to coa-
lesce as a legitimate area of scientific inquiry until after Science pub-
lished a short report later that year.
10
During the same timeframe, the
European Science Foundation launched its first funding scheme in this
area and several national entities such as the UK’s Economic and
Social Research Council initiated their own programs.
This sponsorship was essential in getting sustainable consumption
off the ground as a focus for intellectual inquiry and complementing
developments in the policy sphere. However, the passage of time ero-
ded a good deal of the preexisting institutional resolve and, by the end
of the decade, the OECD and others had largely disbanded their pro-
grams. UNEP inherited the role of championing sustainable con-
sumption on the international stage, but the organization’s equivocal
commitment and chronic financial difficulties have made it difficult to
develop a coherent and visible campaign. The European Union, along
with a few of its co nstituent countries, has evinced cautious interest in
the issue. Part of the appeal of sustainable consumption in these con-
texts though arguably stems from the fact that it provides a discursive
means to challenge American economic and cultural hegemony.
11
The academic community will be unable to move sustainable con-
sumption from the peripheral reaches of the global policy agenda on
its own. Without competent allies in government and civil society that
support a holistic understanding of consumer interests the concept is
likely to whither in the face of competing objectives and remain little
more than a quixotic pursuit.
NOTES
1
See Schwartz (2004) for an interesting counterargument to the customary view.
2
The Winter/Spring issue of the Journal of Industrial Ecology published in 2005
contains a comprehensive survey of these tools and techniques used in the study of
sustainable consumption.
3
A much larger group of social scientists has of course explored the social and cul-
tural significance of consumption without any particular regard for the biophysical
implications of these practices.
4
In addressing this particular dilemma, Woodhouse and Nieusma (1997) contend
that ‘‘[M]ost professional experts must earn a living by working for business execu-
tives or government officials allied with business, who often wish to use expertise for
tasks not designed to promote the goals of workers, consumers, taxpayers, or those
who seek to preserve the environment.’’
5
I am indebted to Jeff Howard for this definition of democratic expertise.
Sustainable Consumption Research
73
6
There is also evidence that some of the more established consumer organizations
are beginning to embrace sustainable consumption (see, e.g., Arkenstette, 2005;
Mu
¨
ller, 2005; Reisch, 2004).
7
For noteworthy exceptions to this general characterization, see Bordwell, 2002,
Rumbo, 2002, and Schor, 2004.
8
The NAS issued a report in 1986 entitled Population Growth and Economic Develop-
ment: Policy Questions that provided cursory treatment of the role of consumption as a
source of global environmental degradation (National Research Council, 1986). A sub-
sequent document, released in collaboration with the Royal Society of London in the
months immediately preceding the Rio Earth Summit under the title of Population
Growth, Resource Consumption, and a Sustainable World (Royal Society and National
Academy of Sciences, 1992) described the need for ‘‘more environmentally benign
patterns of human activity.’’
9
The International Institute for Sustainable Development was one of the nongov-
ernmental organizations that played an especially prominent role in initially formulat-
ing the concept of sustainable consumption.
10
See Myers (1997). Interestingly, this brief paper was published alongside a dissent-
ing rejoinder.
11
The use of sustainable consumption by certain European elites to subvert Ameri-
can influence is part of a long-standing pattern of trans-Atlantic skirmishing (Berman,
2004; Fabbrini, 2002; Johansson, 2004; Rifkin, 2004).
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THE AUTHOR
Maurie J. Cohen is Assistant Professor of environmental policy and sustainability at the
New Jersey Institute of Technology, University Heights, Newark, NJ 07102, USA. Fax
+1-973-596-3586; E-mail: mcohen@adm.njit.edu. He also serves as editor of the
ejournal Sustainability: Science, Practice, & Policy (http://ejournal.nbii.org).
This article is a revised version of a paper presented at the Sixth Open Meeting of the
Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change Research Community at the
University of Bonn, 9–13 October, 2005. Special thanks to Lucia Reisch and Joachim
Spangenberg for organizing the session ‘‘The Politics of Sustainable Consumption within
an Era of Global Environmental Change.’’ The author has benefited greatly from
exchanges on this general topic with Jeff Howard, Jerry Ravetz, and Edward Wood-
house.
Sustainable Consumption Research
77
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Resumen La educación para el consumo desde una perspectiva crítica es un tema serio que necesita ser estudiado y trabajado por todos los miembros de la sociedad educativa. Este trabajo plantea dos objetivos. Por un lado, realizar un análisis de la sociedad actual en clave de consumo. En la actual sociedad occidental el consumo de bienes se ha convertido en un factor de integración en la sociedad y se ha consagrado como la llave para acceder al mundo de primer orden. Las lógicas del mercado de consumo se han instaurado en la educación occidental creando una pedagogía consumista. Por otro lado, se pretende justificar la necesidad de una pedagogía crítica para el consumo como modelo pedagógico dirigido a alfabetizar económicamente a niños y jóvenes mediante el fomento del pensamiento crítico y el fortalecimiento del sistema educativo público para un adecuado y equitativo desarrollo individual y social. En cuanto al método, este trabajo se ha llevado a cabo desde una perspectiva y análisis crítico de las teorías educativas y sociales que abordan el consumo y sus consecuencias para la sociedad del siglo XXI. Como resultado se presenta el planteamiento de construir y defender críticamente la escuela y la educación a través de acciones coordinadas entre el alumnado y el profesorado que logre el empoderamiento para ser críticos, reflexivos y socialmente responsables. Se concluye que educar para el consumo responsable implica el compromiso de toda la comunidad educativa para lograr un cambio social.
... It is within this context that there has also been an increasingly active debate about the role of knowledge and science in processes of societal change (e.g., Jasanoff 2004; Stirling 2014). On the one hand, scientific paradigms, research approaches, and methodological innovations are being revaluated regarding their empiricalanalytical and applied potential to prescribe and contribute to sustainability transformations (Lang et al. 2012;Sch€ apke et al. 2018;Cohen 2006). On the other hand, the proactive role of science and research in politics of social change has been criticized, questioning its part as a critical and autonomous observer in what is happening (Bl€ uhdorn et al. 2018); or referring to the democratic implications of an emergent "expertocracy" (Trentmann, Sum, and Rivera 2018). ...
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In the face of multiple crises of ecology, economy, and social equity, the question of how to democratically transform toward a more sustainable society is high on the political agenda as well as pertinent to academic research. The first part of this introductory article to the special issue provides a brief overview of contemporary interrelated debates on sustainability, democracy, and transformation. It discusses the main concepts, themes, and questions that are part of the highly diverse and constantly evolving body of literature on the topic, as well as differences regarding analytical frames and normative underpinnings. The overview shows that the literature remains largely silent about supporting theories of change, ontologies, methodologies, and principles—and/or the ways in which transformation, sustainability, and democracy are interrelated. The second part of this article introduces the contributions to this special issue. The special issue is guided by three overarching questions: what can we say about the possibilities and problems of democratically enacting changes toward greater social, ecological, economic, and political sustainability in societies? Which analytic frames are useful for evaluating change, including its democratic and sustainability quality? Where do evaluations and judgments derive their analytical and normative legitimacy from?
... In their article, the authors provide a comprehensive overview of all reports issued by NGOs and IGOs (Inter-Governmental Organizations) on the theme of sustainable consumption since the mid-1990s to mid-2000s. Maurie J. Cohen (2006) also notes that the National Academy of Science (NAS) in the United States issued two reports leading up to the Rio Summit that linked consumption to environmental degradation. 6. ...
... It is within this context that there has also been an increasingly active debate about the role of knowledge and science in processes of societal change (e.g., Jasanoff 2004; Stirling 2014). On the one hand, scientific paradigms, research approaches, and methodological innovations are being revaluated regarding their empiricalanalytical and applied potential to prescribe and contribute to sustainability transformations (Lang et al. 2012;Sch€ apke et al. 2018;Cohen 2006). On the other hand, the proactive role of science and research in politics of social change has been criticized, questioning its part as a critical and autonomous observer in what is happening (Bl€ uhdorn et al. 2018); or referring to the democratic implications of an emergent "expertocracy" (Trentmann, Sum, and Rivera 2018). ...
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See full special issue at https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/tsus20/17/S2?nav=tocList (open access). In the face of multiple crises of ecology, economy, and social equity, the question of how to democratically transform toward a more sustainable society is high on the political agenda as well as pertinent to academic research. The first part of this introductory article to the special issue provides a brief overview of contemporary interrelated debates on sustainability, democracy, and transformation. It discusses the main concepts, themes, and questions that are part of the highly diverse and constantly evolving body of literature on the topic, as well as differences regarding analytical frames and normative underpinnings. The overview shows that the literature remains largely silent about supporting theories of change, ontologies, methodologies, and principles ‒ and/or the ways in which transformation, sustainability, and democracy are interrelated. The second part of this article introduces the contributions to this special issue. The special issue is guided by three overarching questions: What can we say about the possibilities and problems of democratically enacting changes toward greater social, ecological, economic, and political sustainability in societies? Which analytic frames are useful for evaluating change, including its democratic and sustainability quality? Where do evaluations and judgments derive their analytical and normative legitimacy from?
... Since the 1990s, the environmental burden caused by current food production and consumption patterns has been linked to the complexity and globalization of food production chains, the alienation of consumers from producers, the fragmentation and individualization of lifestyles, and eroding trust in institutions in "risk society" (Beck 1992). The emergent consumer practices contributing to sustainable development have become a central theme in social scientific research on food consumption patterns (e.g., Cohen 2006;Fuchs and Lorek 2005;Klintman 2009;Klintman and Boström 2012;Micheletti 2003;Stolle et al. 2005;Wahlen et al. 2012). However, more research is needed on what kind of sustainable food consumption practices consumers carry out or are ready for in their everyday lives and how these practices are related to other food practices and attitudes as well as sociodemographic backgrounds. ...
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The chapters in this volume concentrate on the mundane and ordinary eating practices of the everyday, showing how these are linked to change in modern society. The contributors present a collection of systematic empirical results from a unique study based on representative samples of four Nordic populations – Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden – conducted at two time points, 15 years apart. The results of this unprecedented longitudinal survey leads the contributors to question many commonly held beliefs about the presumed and feared collapse of the traditional eating habits, family meals, and regular meal patterns. As the social organization of eating is in many ways related to developments in other social institutions such as family, education, and work, chapters provide interesting insights into contemporary society, with key topics selected for scrutiny including gender, food types, diet and health, and cooking practices. Additionally, the chapters highlight changes in the gendering of food practices and signs of increasing informality around meals.
... Marketing has a well-earned reputation for driving overconsumption and consequentially environmental degradation, income inequity and humanitarian crises; yet, these consequences are also foundational to an interest in sustainable consumption research (Cohen 2006), evidenced by recent journal special issues (see McDonagh and Prothero 2014 for a review), including the Journal of Macromarketing (2010Macromarketing ( , 2014 and the Journal of Marketing Management (1998,2012,2015). This research encapsulates a variety of philosophical perspectives pertaining to consumer attitudes, product acquisition and product disposal behaviors. ...
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Diversos estudios dan cuenta de la importancia de producir evidencias científicas sobre los padecimientos socioambientales negados por las instituciones gubernamentales–lo que Hess (2007) denomina “ciencia no hecha”–. El concepto de “contra-experticia” remite a una experticia –en sentido amplio– que pone en duda decisiones políticas supuestamente basadas en conocimientos científicos (como la aprobación de nuevas tecnologías). Consideramos que es necesario analizar con mayor profundidad la producción y movilización de la contra-experticia. Para esto proponemos diferenciar entre tipos de experticia y tipos de estrategias. En el barrio de Ituzaingó Anexo en Córdoba el movimiento contra el uso de agrotóxicos logró, tras once años de lucha, ganar el primer juicio contra las fumigaciones ilegales. A lo largo del proceso, se desarrollaron múltiples estrategias y se desplegaron diversos tipos de experticia. Primero, los vecinos movilizados produjeron un mapa epidemiológico, a partir de su propio conocimiento sobre los casos de enfermedad. Luego, se aliaron con científicos y profesionales de la salud quienes plantearon la asociación entre las enfermedades y la exposición a los agrotóxicos y produjeron nuevas evidencias científicas. A partir de estas evidencias, el movimiento impulsó la promulgación de ordenanzas restrictivas a las fumigaciones en el barrio. Ante reiteradas violaciones, junto con autoridades de salud municipales y un abogado iniciaron acciones legales que fueron el puntapié para una innovadora estrategia judicial que logró frenar las fumigaciones en la zona y sancionar penalmente a los infractores. El caso confirma la importancia de producir “ciencia no hecha”, pero a la vez ilustra la necesidad de desplegar múltiples estrategias combinadas que involucran no sólo una experticia científica, sino también una experticia local y legal.
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All in all, the report rightfully claims that the United Kingdom has made considerable progress toward sustainability. Having said that, SDC is just as right to point out the discrepancy between need and deed, and it is also justified in its criticism that the government has downplayed the immense (and partly still growing) size of future sustainability challenges, has lacked ambition and coherence, and is missing a set of teeth that would give sustainability plans a cutting edge in key policy areas. In its call for a more ambitious, vigorously implemented sustainability strategy-particularly regarding the prominence given to rethinking the central role of traditionally defined economic development for government politics-it touches upon one of the key obstacles for sustainable development. However, although SDC addresses the issue of resource productivity, it falls short of suggesting similarly comprehensive policies for satisfactory employment and income distribution. Similarly, where it has addressed sustainable consumption, it refers only to a part of the environmentally dominant consumption patterns. SDC's appraisal represents a major step forward, stressing the need to engage the whole of U.K. society. This is especially true of its policy recommendations. The commission rightfully urges to overcome the strategy of small, undemanding, incremental steps, which it recognizes as the strategic basis of the government's sustainability policy. Nonetheless, even SDC's suggestions do not comprehensively cover the essentials of sustainable development with detail and rigor, and some crucial sustainability demands are hardly touched upon at all. We must try still harder.
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This book is the first comprehensive history of consumerism as an organised social and political movement. Matthew Hilton offers a groundbreaking account of consumer movements, ideologies and organisations in twentieth-century Britain. He argues that in organisations such as the Co-operative movement and the Consumers' Association individual concern with what and how we spend our wages led to forms of political engagement too often overlooked in existing accounts of twentieth-century history. He explores how the consumer and consumerism came to be regarded by many as a third force in society with the potential to free politics from the perceived stranglehold of the self-interested actions of employers and trade unions. Finally he recovers the visions of countless consumer activists who saw in consumption a genuine force for liberation for women, the working class and new social movements as well as a set of ideas often deliberately excluded from more established political organisations.
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Confronting Consumption places consumption at the center of debate by conceptualizing "the consumption problem" and documenting diverse efforts to confront it. In part 1, the book frames consumption as a problem of political and ecological economy,. emphasizing core concepts of individualization and commoditization. Part 2 develops the idea of distancing and examines transnational chains of consumption in the context of economic globalization. Part 3 describes citizen action through local currencies, home power, voluntary simplicity, "ad-busting", and product certification. Together, the chapters propose "cautious consuming" and "better producing" as an activist policy response to environmental problems. The book concludes that confronting consumption must become a driving force of contemporary environmental scholarship and activism. ***Winner of the International Studies Association's Harold and Margaret Sprout Award for best book on international environmental affairs