General texts



Consumerism in Twentieth-Century Britain: The Search for a Historical Movement


Hilton M. 2003. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Book preview available here.


This book is the first comprehensive history of consumerism as an organised social and political movement. The author offers a groundbreaking account of ocnsumer movements, ideolofies 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 exisitng 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 counsumer 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. (Hilton, 2003)




The Ethical Consumer


Harrison R. Newholm T. and Shaw D. (Eds) 2005. London: Sage.

Book preview available here.


Who are ethical consumers and why are they on the rise? Leading the way towards answering this question, The Ethical Consumer is an indispensable introduction to the subject.

Exploring areas like boycotts and fair trade projects, it gathers together the diverse experiences of scholars, campaigners and business practitioners from the international community.

The chapters in this book explore: ethical consumer behaviours, motivation and narratives; the social, political and theoretical contexts in which ethical consumers operate; and the responsibilities of businesses and the effectiveness of ethical consumer actions. Contributions are informed by a broad range of research methods, from case studies, focus groups to surveys and interviews.

The text is of interest to business related graduates, undergraduates and their tutors on courses relating to consumption. It will also be relevant to academics in other disciplines, as well as to politicians, producers, practitioners, campaigners and not least consumers. (Harrison et al., 2005)




Geographies of Consumption


Mansvelt J. 2005. London: Sage.


With the use of theory, case studies, images and diagrams, this book examines the many facets to consumption. These ‘geographies’ of consumption includes spaces, identities, histories and moralities, and are used to provide an overview of the key issues discussed within consumption literatures. The book is designed to be accessible as a textbook, but also for academic or leisure reading.




'It’s more than just what it is’: defetishising commodities, expanding field, mobilising change…


Cook I. Evans J. Griffiths H. Morris R. and Wrathmell S. 2007. Geoforum 38: 1113-1126.


This article considered how to engage students in consumption geographies through the de-fetishisation of commodities. It discusses how teaching and research attitudes towards consumption and production are too didactic and suggests a more political approach.




Enchanting ethical consumerism: the case of community supported agriculture


Thompson C. J. and Coskuner-Balli G. 2007. Journal of Consumer Culture 7(3): 275-303.


This article analyzes Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) as a form of ethical consumerism organized by a nexus of ideological discourses, romantic idealizations, and unconventional marketplace practices and relationships.

Our analysis explicates the aspects of CSA that enable consumers to experience its pragmatic inconveniences and choice restrictions as enchanting moral virtues.We conclude by assessing the societal implications that follow from these localized marketplace relationships and their ideological distinctions to the modes of enchantment that are constituted in postmodern cathedrals of consumption. (Thompson and Coskuner-Balli, 2007 p.275)




Does Ethics Have A Chance In A World Of Consumers?


Bauman Z. 2009. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.


Rather than searching for solutions to what are perhaps the insoluble problems of the modern world, Bauman proposes that we reframe the way we think about these problems. In an era of routine travel, where most people circulate widely, the inherited beliefs that aid our thinking about the world have become an obstacle. Bauman seeks to liberate us from the thinking that renders us hopeless in the face of our own domineering governments and threats from unknown forces abroad. He shows us we can give up belief in a hierarchical arrangement of states and powers. He challenges members of the “knowledge class” to overcome their estrangement from the rest of society. Bauman urges us to think in new ways about a newly flexible, newly challenging modern world.




The social economics of ethical consumption: Theoretical considerations and empirical evidence


Starr M. A. 2009. The Journal of Socio-Economics 38: 916-925.


This paper takes a wholesale approach to ethical consumption, exploring the many facets, practices and products that the term encapsulates. The paper explores a number of key issues that influence ethical consumption, such as age, gender and social values, etc. and uses the results of the General Social Survey to explore perceptions about ethical consumption issues. The paper suggests that further research is required that explores the different social and temporal dimensions of ethical consumption, particular how ethical consumption behaviour is transferred between individuals.




The Myth of the Ethical Consumer


Devinney T. M. Auger P. and Eckhardt G. M. 2010. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Book preview available here.


Do consumers really care where products come from and how they are made? Is there such a thing as an 'ethical consumer'? Corporations and policy makers are bombarded with international surveys purporting to show that most consumers want ethical products.

Yet when companies offer such products they are often met with indifference and limited uptake. It seems that survey radicals turn into economic conservatives at the checkout. This book reveals not only why the search for the 'ethical consumer' is futile but also why the social aspects of consumption cannot be ignored.

Consumers are revealed to be much more deliberative and sophisticated in how they do or do not incorporate social factors into their decision making. Using first-hand findings and extensive research, The Myth of the Ethical Consumer provides academics, students and leaders in corporations and NGOs with an enlightening picture of the interface between social causes and consumption. (Google Books, 2010)




An exploratory study into the factors impeding ethical consumption


Bray J. Johns N. and Kilburn D. 2011. Journal of Business Ethics 98(4): 597-608.


Although consumers are increasingly engaged with ethical factors when forming opinions about products and making purchase decisions, recent studies have highlighted significant differences between consumers' intentions to consume ethically, and their actual purchase behaviour. This article contributes to an understanding of this 'Ethical Purchasing Gap' through a review of existing literature, and the inductive analysis of focus group discussions. For some consumers, inertia in purchasing behaviour was such that the decision-making process was devoid of ethical considerations. Several consumers manifested their ethical views through post-purchase dissonance and retrospective feelings of guilt. Others displayed a reluctance to consume ethically due to personal constraints, a perceived negative impact on image or quality, or an outright negation of responsibility. Those who expressed a desire to consume ethically often seemed deterred by cynicism, which caused them to question the impact they, as an individual, could achieve.




An Introduction to Ethical Consumerism


Harrison R. 2011. Unpublished text prepared for a presentation to non-UK students at Manchester Business School.

[Click here to download a copy]


A short introduction to Ethical Consumer magazine, to contested ethics, to surveys and market research around ethical consumer behaviours in Europe, and to typologies of different behaviours.




Ethical Consumption: A Critical Introduction


Lewis T. and Potter E. (Eds) 2011. London: Routledge.


This collection of essays provides a range of critical tools for understanding the turn towards responsible or conscience consumption and, in the process, interrogates the notion that we can shop our way to a more ethical, sustainable future. Written by leading international scholars from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds - and drawing upon examples from across the globe - Ethical Consumption makes a major contribution to the still fledgling field of ethical consumption studies. This collection is a must-read for anyone interested in the relationship between consumer culture and contemporary social life.