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Ethics as Fetish: Toward a Theory of Ethical Consumer Consciousness


Ethics as Fetish: Toward a Theory of Ethical Consumer Consciousness

Perkins, David (2013) Ethics as Fetish: Toward a Theory of Ethical Consumer Consciousness. Masters thesis, Concordia University.

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This thesis analyses the relationship between ethical consumption and morality in a contemporary context of neoliberalism. Following Carrier (2012), ethical consumption is defined as an ambiguous mechanism through which social value and economic choice are brought together in order to affirm both. Tim Hortons’ (2012) Coffee Partnership Program, an initiative that takes place under the company’s “Making a True Difference” campaign, serves as a case study of the form that contemporary ethical consumption takes. Though theorists of risk society (Beck 1992, Giddens 1991) and governmentality (Rose 1999, Miller and Rose 1997) have argued that neoliberalism coincides with greater experiences of anxiety due to increased knowledge of risks and pressures of responsibilization, ethnographies of ethical consumers (such as Connolly and Prothero 2008, Adams and Raisborough’s 2010) have indicated that ethical consumption tends to mitigate the anxieties associated with consuming by guaranteeing the sustainability of the commodity in question. I argue that by guaranteeing the extent to which a commodity is ethical, such consumption paradoxically lessens the extent to which individual consumers experience the psychic turmoil of social and political responsibility to others. I use the concept of “commodity fetishism” from Marx (1990 [1867]) nuanced with a contemporary psychoanalytic notion of fetishism (Edelman 2005 [2004], and Žižek 2006, 2008, 2008 [1989], 2012) to explain the phenomenon of this mitigation.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Sociology and Anthropology
Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Authors:Perkins, David
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:M.A.
Date:September 2013
Thesis Supervisor(s):Neves, Katja
ID Code:977833
Deposited On:26 Nov 2013 15:26
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:45
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