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Can Consumer Demand Deliver Sustainable Food?

Recent Research in Sustainable Consumption Policy and Practice

Cindy Isenhour

From Slow Food and farmers' markets to ecolabels and fair trade an unprecedented number of consumer-based alternative food movements have risen in response to concerns about the environmental and social effects of industrialized agriculture. Some research suggests that these movements are successful in their efforts to reconnect communities, demystify global food chains, and produce sustainable foods, which are healthier for the planet and human bodies. Yet other scholars argue that the contemporary focus on consumer responsibility in policy and practice indicates much more than a process of reflexive modernization. The devolution of responsibility to consumers and the dominance of market-based solutions, these scholars argue, reflect the growing influence of neoliberal environmental governance. From this perspective these movements are naive in their assumption that consumers have the power necessary to overcome the structural barriers that inhibit significant change. These critics argue that the focus on consumer responsibility excludes those without access to consumer choice, reproduces social hierarchies, and fails to deliver the political and redistributive solutions necessary to achieve sustainability. Drawing on research across the social sciences this article surveys the existing evidence about the effectiveness of consumer-based movements in their attempts to create sustainable food systems.

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Jane Collins

This article explores dominant ideological framings of the economic crisis that began in 2008, by examining shifting meanings of consumer citizenship in the US. The consumer citizen was a central figure in Keynesian ideology—one that encapsulated important assumptions about the proper relationship between production and consumption and the appropriate arenas for citizen engagement with the economy. Taking Wal-Mart as a case-study example, the article analyzes the way that corporate actors have flattened and reconfigured the concept of consumer citizenship in the US—promoting the “consumer” over the “citizen” and the “worker,” which had previously been important aspects of the concept—and have replaced Keynesian-era conversations about the proper balance between production and consumption with a rhetoric of choice between low prices and high wages.

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Communism, Consumerism, and Gender in Early Cold War Film

The Case of Ninotchka and Russkii vopros

Rhiannon Dowling

This article deals with ideologies of domesticity, femininity, and consumerism as they were articulated in two films in the early Cold War. These films, shown in occupied Berlin from the spring of 1948 through the first few months of 1949, were Ernst Lubitsch's Hollywood classic Ninotchka (1939) and the Soviet film Russkiivopros (The Russian Question, 1948). They portrayed competing notions of domestic consumption and the “good life” in the aftermath of the Second World War—issues more commonly understood to have characterized the later, thaw-era, years of the conflict. Though they were shown at a time of heightened political and ideological tensions, neither painted a one-dimensional or demonized portrait of the enemy. Instead, both films employed narratives about the private lives and material desires of women in order to humanize their enemies and yet make a statement about the inhuman nature of the other system.

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Brian Wemp

The Grands Magasins Dufayel, a huge department store built on the northern fringe of late nineteenth-century Paris, had an important cultural influence on the city's working class. In a neighborhood with few public spaces, it provided a consumer version of the public square. It encouraged workers to approach shopping as a social activity, just as the bourgeoisie did at the famous department stores in central Paris. Like the bourgeois stores, it helped transform consumption from a personal transaction between customer and merchant into an unmediated relationship between consumer and goods. Through advertising the store portrayed itself as a space where the working-class visitor could participate in new and exciting forms of entertainment and technology. Its unique instore cinema and exhibits of inventions like X-ray machines and the gramophone created a new kind of urban space that celebrated the close relationship between technology and consumer culture.

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John Clarke

This article examines the modernisation of universities in the U.K., arguing that heterogeneous policy objectives and strategies have become condensed in the construction of higher education as a governable system and the university as a corporate enterprise. It argues that managerialism has displaced and subordinated professional and administrative logics for the coordination of universities, articulating them into supporting roles. Finally, it examines some of the cultural psychological states associated with the contradictory and uncomfortable assemblage that is the modernized university: identifying fantasy, dissociation and professional melancholia. It concludes with an argument that nostalgia for a lost academic community cannot be a foundation for political challenges to the present model.

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Urban Consumers on Two Wheels

Metropolitan Bike-sharing Schemes and Outdoor Advertising in Paris, Montreal, New York, and San Juan

Tomás López-Pumarejo

Large-scale public bicycle rental programs represent the latest grand venture for outdoor advertising corporations. By supporting these programs, advertisers gain unfettered access to street furniture and municipal billboard space and thus acquire the power to transform the city dwellers' experience of the urban landscape both visually and kinetically. These public-private bike rental programs have mushroomed around the world due in part to the impact of Paris' Vélib, which is the world's largest. This paper discusses the role of outdoor advertising in this trend, and focuses on two existing and two projected public bicycle programs. The existing programs are Vélib and Montreal's Bixi; and the projected ones are slated for New York and San Juan, Puerto Rico.1

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Mark Bayer

Sometime around 1890, Romeo and Juliet became the first Shakespeare play translated into Arabic and staged at a public theatre. The classic love story proved exceedingly popular among theatregoers in Cairo, and it remained in the repertory of Iskandar Farah’s theatrical company and its various successors for over twenty years, even while it was simultaneously revived by other troupes. The success of this production has been duly noted. The popularity of Shuhada’ al-Gharam [The Martyrs of Love], as it was known, remains somewhat puzzling, however, since it was in many respects completely foreign to its early Arab audiences who had very little familiarity with Shakespeare, and especially the genre of tragedy. But if it was unfamiliar to them, replete with the melodramatic songs of the fl amboyant pop star Salama Hijazi, and punctuated with comic sketches, recited poetry and cabaret-style music between acts, it would strike Western viewers of Shakespeare as equally exotic.

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Financialization from the margins

Notes on the incorporation of Argentina's subproletariat into consumer credit (2009–2015)

Hadrien Saiag

exploited and alienated through consumer credit. I expected Kevin to be enthusiastic by the idea, since it was based on his experience. To my surprise, I realized he was very uncomfortable with the topic. He stopped me, saying, “Credit cards by themselves

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Erika Friedl

started out as a staunch modernist belief in progress as the most reliable path to well-being morphed into a rampant materialist consumerism that soon frustrated young people especially in an economy providing cheap higher education for men and women but

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Capturing Crisis

Solar Power and Humanitarian Energy Markets in Africa

Jamie Cross

Africa's telecoms and fast-moving consumer goods sectors by headhunting management professionals, transferring knowledge and expertise in logistics and marketing into nascent markets for consumer-focused renewable energy products. Virgil was a perfect