Anti Consumerism

Powerful Essays
Jo Littler
BEYOND THE BOYCOTT Anti-consumerism, cultural change and the limits of reflexivity

This article focuses on the possibilities and limitations of reflexivity in contemporary anti-consumerism activist discourse. Opening by noting that much contemporary anti-consumerist discourse has a fraught relationship with what was once termed ‘identity politics’, in that it often attempts to reject or negotiate with an idea of identity politics that is figured as existing in the recent past, the article suggests that one way of both understanding this preoccupation, and of broadening out the terms of discussion, is to consider the various ways in which these discourses can be understood as reflexive. The paper therefore attempts to identify how various anti-consumerist actions and texts, including Naomi Klein’s bestseller No Logo, Anita Roddick’s manual Take it Personally, the work of ‘culture jammers’ Adbusters, and Reverend Billy’s ‘Church of Stop Shopping’ position themselves reflexively in relation to social and cultural change. Its discourse analysis considers what these projects understand as ‘activism’, the ‘type’ or characteristics of (anti-) consumers being imagined, and the implied consequences for consumption and production. In doing so, it draws from a range of theories about or relating to ‘reflexivity’, in particular the work of Scott Lash, Donna Haraway, Judith Butler and Bruno Latour. Following Haraway and Butler in particular, the article argues for an emphasis on the relationality of reflexivity. The more ‘relational reflexivity’ demonstrated by anti-consumerist activity, the more likely it becomes to be open to making egalitarian alliances, the article argues, and this factor needs to be included alongside affective ‘mattering maps’ and ‘chains of equivalence’ when considering the problems and potential of anti-consumerist discourse. In doing so, the article attempts to shift the study of anti-consumerist activism further away from simple



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