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Creating the Responsible Consumer: Moralistic Governance Regimes and Consumer Subjectivity

Markus Giesler and Ela Veresiu

Journal of Consumer Research, 2014, vol. 41, issue 3, 840 - 857

Abstract: Responsible consumption conventionally stems from an increased awareness of the impact of consumption decisions on the environment, on consumer health, and on society in general. We theorize the influence of moralistic governance regimes on consumer subjectivity to make the opposite case: responsible consumption requires the active creation and management of consumers as moral subjects. Building on the sociology of governmentality, we introduce four processes of consumer responsibilization that, together, comprise the P.A.C.T. routine (personalization, authorization, capabilization, and transformation). After that, we draw on a longitudinal analysis of problem-solving initiatives at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to explore the role of P.A.C.T. in the creation of four, now commonplace, responsible consumer subjects: the bottom-of-the-pyramid consumer, the green consumer, the health-conscious consumer, and the financially literate consumer. Our analysis informs extant macro-level theorizations of market and consumption systems. We also contribute to prior accounts of responsibilization, marketplace mythologies, consumer subjectivity, and transformative consumer research.

Date: 2014
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