Mittwoch, 19. April 2023, 16:15 - 17:45 iCal

ie.talks: Shopping for Justice?

Consumer Activism in Britain and West Germany since the 1950s

Seminarraum SG2
Sensengasse 3, Bauteil 1, 1090 Wien


Vortrag von Benjamin Möckel (Universität Köln) im Rahmen der "ie.talks"-Veranstaltungsreihe des Instituts für Internationale Entwicklung


Are we responsible for whether the producers of our jeans and t-shirts receive a fair wage? Do we need to take into account under what conditions our mobile phone was manufactured? And is it OK to fly to Paris for a weekend? – Ethical considerations concerning individual consumer behavior have become an important element of the political discourse in the last decades. Such moral claims are used by different actors: by consumers who see this as a way of exerting political and social influence; by companies that use moral narratives to emphasize their social and ecological awareness; and last but not least by governments and politicians, who seem to use the rhetoric of "consumer power" to delegate political responsibility to the individual citizen.

This will historicize this new emphasis on the political agency and power of the consumer – and it will emphasize the ambivalent consequences of this merging of political and consumer activism. It highlights two historical genealogies: on the one hand, the long tradition of consumer politics and consumer activism that goes back to the 18th century; and on the other hand, the re-emergence of consumer campaigns since the late 1950s, when boycott movements and alternative consumer cultures began to use the realm of consumption to raise awareness for human rights, global justice, and ecological concerns.

My focus is on two key questions: Why did European consumers since the 1960s find it so attractive to express their political views through their consumer behavior? And what consequences did this have for new forms of political participation and protest that have emerged since the 1960s?


Institut für Internationale Entwicklung


Institut für Internationale Entwicklung