Anti Consumerism

Topics: Culture jamming, Consumerism, Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping Pages: 35 (12027 words) Published: May 5, 2013
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 celebrations of its ‘resistance’ and towards opening up a cultural economy of anti-consumerism, one which is also critically engaged with furthering its politics. Keywords activism; anti-consumerism; consumer culture; cultural economy; reflexivity; relational reflexivity

Cultural Studies Vol. 19, No. 2 March 2005, pp. 227 Á/252 ISSN 0950-2386 print/ISSN 1466-4348 online – 2005 Taylor & Francis Group Ltd http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals DOI: 10.1080/09502380500077771

228

C U LT U R A L S T U D I E S

Then we had an idea. Maybe if we banged together the heads of all these activists and reconfigured the fragmented forces of identity politics into a new, empowered movement, maybe we could start winning again. (Adbusters founder Kalle Lasn 1999 p. xii) There is an economy in the interior of a person. We need to find a new kind of vivid privacy. (Bill Talen, better known as ‘Reverend Billy’ from The Church of Stop Shopping, 2003 p.83)

Introduction
Contemporary anti-neoliberal activist politics has frequently deployed a rhetoric of anti-consumerism, in which socially exploitative and environmentally damaging power relations are highlighted by focusing campaigns on everyday consumer products. Such tactics have not been confined to ‘grassroots’ politics: the success of Naomi Klein’s bestselling book No Logo, for instance, brought the global flows linking consumer brands with sweatshop labour into a new level of popular visibility, as well as being itself enabled by the broader context of the movements for global justice which the book in part documents (Klein 2000, Shepard & Hayduk 2002, Notes from Nowhere 2003, Wainwright 2003, Mertes 2004). Yet, whilst the study of consumer culture has notoriously expanded in a multitude of interdisciplinary directions over the past two decades (Miller 1987, Featherstone 1991, Slater 1997, Nava et al. 1997, Lee 2000, Schor and Holt 2000) academic studies of, or indeed engagements with, anti-consumerist activism have been sparse....

References: Amin, A. & Thrift, N. (eds) (2004) The Cultural Economy Reader, Blackwell, Oxford. Beck, U., Giddens, A. & Lash, S. (1994) Reflexive Modernisation, Polity, Cambridge. Belk, R., Ger, G. & Askegaard, S. (2003) ‘The fire of desire: a multi-sited inquiry into consumer passion’, Journal of Consumer Research, vol. 30, pp. 326Á 351. Binkley, S. (2003) ‘The Seers of Menlo Park: the discourse of heroic consumption in the Whole Earth Catalog’, Journal of Consumer Culture, vol. 3, no. 3, pp. 283Á 313. Blackmore, S. (2000) The Meme Machine, Oxford University Press, Oxford. Bourdieu, P. with Wacquant, L.J.D. (1992) ‘An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology’, Polity, Cambridge. Bowlby, R. (1993) Shopping with Freud, Routledge, London. Brown, P. (2004) ‘Monsanto abandons worldwide GM wheat project’, The Guardian, 11 May. Butler, J. (2004) Precarious Life: The Power of Mourning and Violence, Verso, London. Clifford, J. (1998) The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth-Century Ethnography, Literature and Art, Harvard, Cambridge. Dawkins, R. (1989) The Selfish Gene, Oxford paperbacks, Oxford. Debord, G (1994) The Society of the Spectacle, Zone Books, New York. Deleuze, G. (1995) Negotiations 1972Á 1990, Columbia University Press, New York. Dollimore, J. (2001) Sex, Literature and Censorship, Polity, Cambridge. du Gay, P. & Pryke, M. (2002) Cultural Economy, Sage, London. Featherstone, M. (1991) Consumer Culture and Postmodernism, Sage, London. Foucault, M. (1986) The History of Sexuality Volume Three: The Care of the Self, Penguin, London. Frank, T. (1997) The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture and the Rise of Hip Consumerism, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
/ / /
B E YO N D T H E B OY C OT T
251
Gabriel, Y. & Lang, T. (1995) The Unmanageable Consumer: Contemporary Consumption and its Fragmentations, Sage, London. Galtz, R. (2004) ‘Consumption at the brink: the radically simplified spaces of Fight Club and Matrix 2’, paper delivered at Crossroads in Cultural Studies Conference. Gauntlett, D. (2002) Media, Gender and Identity, Routledge, London. Genette, G. (1997) Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation, trans. J. E. Lewin, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Giddens, A. (1991) Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age, Polity, London. Gilbert, J. (2004) ‘Beyond the activist imaginary’, unpublished/forthcoming paper. Goldstein, R. (1985) The Mind-Body Problem, Penguin, New York. Grossberg, L. (1992) We Gotta Get Out of This Place: Popular Conservatism and Postmodern Culture, Routledge, London. Grossberg, L. (1997) Bringing it all Back Home: Essays on Cultural Studies, Duke, Durham. Hall, S. (1997) The centrality of culture: notes on the cultural revolutions of our time, in Media and Cultural Regulation, ed. K. Thompson, Sage, London. Haraway, D. (1997) Modest_Witness@Second_Millennium.FemaleMan#_Meets_OncoMouseTM: Feminism and Technoscience, Routledge, New York. Harding, S. (2003) The Feminist Standpoint Theory Reader, Routledge, London. Hardt, M. (2002) ‘The collective project for a global commons’, New Formations, no. 45, pp. 221Á 222. Hilton, M. (2003) Consumerism in Twentieth-Century Britain: The Search for an Historical Movement, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. hooks, b. (1992) Black Looks: Race and Representation, Turnaround, London. Huyssen, A. (1987) After the Great Divide: Modernism, Mass Culture and Postmodernism, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN. Kaplan, C. (1999) ‘‘A world without boundaries’: The Body Shop’s trans/national geographics’, in With Other Eyes: Looking at Race and Gender in Visual Culture, L. Bloom, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. Kingsnorth, P. (2003) The church of stop shopping, in One No, Many Yeses: A Journey to the Heart of the Global Resistance Movement, Free Press, London. Klein, N. (2000) No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies, Flamingo, London. Klein, N. (2002) Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front lines of the Globalization Debates, Flamingo, London. Laclau, E. & Mouffe, C. (1985) Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, Verso, London. Lash, S. & Urry, J. (1994) Economies of Signs and Space, Sage, London. Lash, S. (2002) Critique of Information, Sage, London. Lasn, K. (1999) Culture Jam: the Uncooling of America, Eagle Brook, New York. Latour, B. (2004) Politics of Nature: How to Bring the Sciences into Democracy, Harvard University Press, Cambridge. Lee, M. (2000) The Consumer Society Reader, Blackwell, Oxford.
/
252
C U LT U R A L S T U D I E S
Levett, R. (2003) A Better Choice of Choice: Quality of life, consumption and economic growth, Fabian Society, London. Littler, J. (2004) ‘Putting the shoe on the other foot: an interview with Kalle Lasn’, [online] Available at: www.signsofthetimes.org.uk Luc-Nancy, J. (1991) The Inoperative Community, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. Merck, M. (ed.) (2004) ‘Cultures and Economies’ New Formations, no. 52. Mertes, T. (ed.) (2004) A Movement of Movements: Is Another World Really Possible?, Verso, London. Miller, D. (1987) Material Culture and Mass Consumption, Routledge, London. Moor, L. (2004) ‘Brands: personhood, property and politics’, Soundings, no. 28, pp. 49Á 61. Muchhala, B. (2004) Students against sweatshops, in A Movement of Movements: Is Another World Really Possible?, ed. T. Mertes, Verso, London. Nash, K. (2004) Contemporary Political Sociology, Blackwell, Oxford. Nava, M., Blake, A., MacRury, I. and Richards, B. (eds) (1997) ‘Introduction’, Buy this Book: Studies in Advertising and Consumption, Routledge, London. Notes from Nowhere (2003) We Are Everywhere: The Irresistible Rise of Global Anticapitalism, Verso, London. Packard, V. (1957) The Hidden Persuaders, David MacKay, London. Ritzer, G. (2002) ‘Revolutionizing the world of consumption’, Journal of Consumer Culture, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 103Á 118. Roddick, A. (2003) Take it Personally: How globalisation affects you and powerful ways to challenge it: An action guide for conscious consumers, Element, London. Rowbotham, S. (2000) Promise of a Dream: Remembering the Sixties, Penguin, London. Sayer, K. (2004) ‘Subcultural capital and grassroots activism: defining ‘‘success’’ and cooptation’, paper given at Crossroads in Cultural Studies Conference. Schor, J. & Holt, D. (eds) (2000) The Consumer Society Reader, New Press, New York. Shepard, B. & Hayduk, R. (eds) (2002) From ACT UP to the WTO: Urban protest and community building in the era of globalization, Verso, London. Slater, D. (1997) Consumer Culture and Modernity, Sage, London. Smith, M. (2000) ‘On the state of cultural studies: an interview with Paul Gilroy’, Third Text, no. 49, pp. 15Á 26. Soar, M. (2000) ‘The politics of culture jamming: Adbusters on the web and in print’, M/C Reviews, 12 April, [online] Available at: http:// www.uq.edu.au/mc/reviews/features/politics/jamming.html Talen, B. (2003) What should I do if Reverend Billy is in my store?, The New Press, New York. Terranova, T. (2004) Network Culture: Politics for the Information Age, Pluto, London. Wainwright, H. (2003) Reclaim the State: Experiments in Popular Democracy, Verso, London. Ware, V. (1992) Beyond the Pale: White Women, Racism and History, Verso, London. Williamson, J. (2002) ‘An anti-capitalist bildungsroman’, New Formations, no. 45, pp. 210Á 214.
/ / / /
Continue Reading

Please join StudyMode to read the full document

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Consumerism Essay
  • Essay about Consumerism
  • consumerism Essay
  • consumerism Essay
  • Consumerism Essay
  • essay on consumerism
  • Consumerism and Happiness Essay
  • Consumerism Essay

Become a StudyMode Member

Sign Up - It's Free