In a formal definition, political consumerism can be said to be the choice of products and producers with the goal of changing politically or ethically objectionable market or institutional practices. These choices are informed by the attitudes as well as values regarding issues of fairness, justice, political or ethical assessment of favorable as well as unfavorable business and government practice, and non-economic issues that concern personal as well as family well being. Political consumerism is concerned with capturing various creative ways in which the citizens, political activists and consumers in general use the marketplace as an arena of consumer politics.
Further simplified, political consumerism can be defined as the intentional buying or abstaining to buy for social, political, or ethical reasons. In the United States of America, there are development and test of hypotheses regarding individual sources of political consumerism. Analyzed survey data indicate that similar to voting, an individual's citizen duties, as well as political interest, promote political consumerism. Similar to protest behavior, political consumerism is advanced by general discontent as well as political distrust. As opposed to turnout, political consumerism significantly reduces with an increase in age, and due to the self-initiated as well as the extraelectoral nature of political consumerism, citizen initiative for individualized forms of activism is a significant source for political consumerism.
American citizens tend to be political during their everyday consumer activity. This can be owed to the slogans as well as product labels that duly prompt the people to behave as such. "Buy American." "Fair Trade" "Environmentally friendly" Are just some of these slogans and labels that lead to this effect. The intention to buy or to abstain from the purchase of specific commodities due to political, ethical, or social reasons makes up the core of what has been termed political consumerism. The idea of using consumer purchasing power as a political device is not a new practice and has had several significant precedents in the American history. The boycotting of Nestle products in reaction to their retailing of baby formula in developing countries and the boycotting of Nike running shoes at the time of the Nike sweatshop labor campaign that came up in the mid 1990s are just some of the examples. More recently, activists for gay rights boycotted a number of California business establishments that contributed towards the anti-gay-marriage state ballot measure.
There is evidence that politically influenced consumer behavior has been on the increase in the United States as well as some other Western industrial democracies starting in the mid to late 1970s. In terms of political consequentiality, the potency of political consumerism as a way of political action has been noted in the form of policy changes by the targeted organizations and the precipitation of desired forms of government intervention and regulation of the targeted industries as well as the registration of economic impacts in the guise of declines in the stock prices of these targeted firms. Despite all this, political consumerism has got little direct attention from fields of political science.
The Aspect of Political Action in Consumer Choice
The fundamental question here is: What makes Political consumerism political?. How can buying a product be termed political if it is not directly linked to a political group, for instance, republican, or Democratic, and if the political system is not directly devised to translate mass buying behavior into a policy signal for those in government? These are some of the issues that research on political consumerism first set out to solve.
The first move in understanding the concept of political consumerism in terms of its political nature involves expanding the understanding of the political aspect and hence what makes up political participation. From the more general understanding of political participation, the definition of political consumerism can be widened to accommodate those traits and trends directed t a larger group of non-state oriented targets such as the private sector s well as organizations within the market that intend to directly influence the allocation of behavioral values within the society they operate in. Based on this definition, political consumerism qualifies as a type of political participation and influence since it tries influence the amount of priority accorded to specific values in the society such as: environmental protection, humanitarianism, economic justice, among many others, as well as to shape the channel of distribution of these imposed values in the economic as well as the political outcomes within the society.
The second understanding of the political aspect in political consumerism focuses on moving the theoretical perspective towards a citizen-centered view of participation. The main political components of political consumerism are based on the political intentions behind the choices and the subjective political meaning given to the consumer choice. Consumer behavior becomes political when a consumer gets concerned about the properties of a product that are beyond use related properties such as fairness or justice o guide his/her purchasing decision. In summary, consumer choices are politicized when they start being used as a way of expressing preferences and as a means of exercising influence over the consumer behavior of other consumers with an aim of achieving specific economic as well as political outcomes.
Sources of political consumerism
The cross-behavioral framework used for comparing the cvarious forms of participatory political behaviors rely on placing political consumerism in relation to othey ways of participation along the three theoretical dimensions of political action. These are high/low initiative, institutional or non institutional, and group/individualized dimensions.
Lifestyle politics gives a theoretical guide for formulating hypotheses regarding the various effects of individual-level variables of known importance to protest as well as electoral participation on the probability of participating in political consumerism. Using this process a clearer sense of the kind of participation political consumerism is can be produced as well as how it should be placed in relation to behaviors such as voting and protesting.
Comparing Voting and Protest to Political Consumerism
The sole purpose of studying the effects of political consumerism is to explore an important yet understudied political behavior as well as to make solid moves towards developing and testing the teory of its individual-level sources. The political nature of political consumerism has been aptly defended by using an expanded conceptualization of what makes up political participation in agreement with a citizen centered view of participating. Political consumerism gains its position as a form of political participation since it is tied closely with the allocation of value trends in the society. Actions of politicized consumer traits are meant to bring out politically relevant policy preferences as well as values and to mould how these particular values are exemplified in real life political as well as economic outcomes through exerting adequate influence over the traits of especially private actors within market place that has been politicized.
One basic intention for conducting this research was to create more academic interest as well as attention towards politicized political behavior especially inside the united states. More leverage could be gained by simply understanding the various types of consumerism, especially political consumerism, only if better surveys are done, using better survey items. This could bring more insight on why individuals decide to incorporate their personal political considerations into their consumption trends and are always willing to sacrifice other considerations just to get to express their political preferences.
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