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The consumer stuck between a rock of victimhood and a hard place called responsibility: Political discourses on the ‘consumer’ in Finnish and German governmental policy documents

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Abstract

Executive governmental authorities contribute a discourse, making-up, outlining and configuring the consumer. The objective of this paper is to elaborate on the discursive construction of the consumer provided by governmental institutions. Exemplified by Finnish and German policy documents, this paper tries to provide an insight on the consumer as the subject that is governed by politics. Thus, a discourse analytic approach reveals according to what rationale the consumer is discursively constructed on a dichotomous sovereignty-vulnerability-continuum. Hence, this paper provides actors and institutions that are involved in consumer policy deliberate basic principles for the understanding of consumers.

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... Consumer protection policy seeks to safeguard consumer legal, economic and safety matters. Moreover, consumer policy establishes a legal framework that encourages consumer participation in markets (Reisch, 2004;Wilhelmsson, 2004;Wahlen, 2009). Contemporary consumer policy guides or steers consumption with regulations for different subject areas such as nutrition, health, product safety, telecommunications, finance, insurance, transport, energy, the environment and competition. ...
... Denegri-Knott et al., 2006, p. 955). Consumer sovereignty might be considered the most prominent model in relation to consumer policy (Wahlen, 2009). This also becomes apparent when we describe the history of consumer policy. ...
... Here we can analyse governmental consumer policy discourses (cf. Wahlen, 2009) or discourses related to marketing and advertising in order to contextualize and historicize technologies that govern consumption, and thus implement strategies that empower the consumer. ...
Article
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Article
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... Herewith, the shape of domestic routine practices can be contemplated. The article then further seeks to contribute to the intellectual basis of consumer studies and home economics in order to stimulate discussion on the possibility of consumers to take over (co-)responsibilities for the outcome of practices without neglecting the vulnerability of consumers (Wahlen, 2009). ...
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... Aktuelle Analysen der deutschen Verbraucherpolitik -für die österreichische gibt es leider keine Arbeiten dazu -zeigen, Verbraucherpolitik hat kein einheitliches Leitbild, sondern das Leitbild zerfällt in Teilaspekte: "Die Positionen der verbraucherpolitischen Akteure (sind) vielfältig, unklar und inkohärent." 20 An offiziellen Positionen gemessen erweist sich, dass Verbraucherpolitik grosso modo zwei Leitbilder nützt, die an sich einander diametral gegenüberstehen: Zum einen werden Verbraucher als Opfer der Marktmacht der Anbieter (Produzentensouveränität) gesehen, zum anderen werden Verbraucher als (potenzielle) Akteure zur Bildung nachhaltiger, also klimaverträglicher und sozialverträglicher Nachfrage und damit einer sozial und ökologisch verträglichen Wirtschaft gesehen (Konsumentensouveränität). 21 Jedoch ganz generell wäre festzustellen, "dass (...) Leitbilder erst in geringem Umfang in der Verbraucherpolitik in Deutschland eingesetzt werden", so das Ergebnis einer Dokumentenanalyse. 22 Festzuhalten Auf eine Schwierigkeit für die Verbraucherpolitik muss hingewiesen werden, wenn über die ihr unterliegende Theorie gesprochen wird. ...
Book
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Book
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Article
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Book
This volume of essays employs discourse theory to analyze mainstream topics in contemporary European politics. Inspired by developments in post-structuralist, psychoanalytic and post-Marxist theory, each contributor problematizes a central issue in European governance, including European security, Third Way politics, constitutional and administrative reform, new forms of nationalism and populism, the shift from welfare to workfare, environmental politics and local government. Alongside these substantive issues, the book tackles questions raised by the difficulties of applying discourse theory to empirical cases.
Chapter
Consumer policy is a relatively new field of political discourse in the Nordic countries. It is hard to date its birth, as all kinds of societal discourses have long prehistories when they are not conscious of themselves as discourses. They are, as Foucault says, discursive practices that are the necessary condition for the establishment of a science or social policy (Foucault, 1972). In describing discursive practices, Foucault uses an umbrella concept of ‘knowing’ which includes several elements: (a) the objects that are considered to deserve special attention, (b) the cognitive space that serves as the framework within which a subject relates itself to these objects, (c) the field of coordination and subordination of presentations that define concepts and prescribe their use, and (d) the possibilities of application that these presentations serve (Foucault, 1972, 202–3). These elements may or may not form a scientific-political discourse. In this chapter, we will focus on consumer policy, rather than scientific discourse, following the path — ‘discursive practice-knowing-policy (science)’ — that Foucault recommends.
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The impact of e-commerce on consumers, public policy, business and education is examined. It behoves academics and students alike to keep abreast of new developments in this field and to contribute to the public debate on the widespread effects of e-commerce. A discussion of public policy initiatives, research questions and ideas for future research are given.
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