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The nature of empowerment in a consumer education program initiated by a supermarket chain

Journal of Consumer Culture

Published online on


This article aims to contribute to an understanding of the phenomenon of the commercialization of education, through an analysis of the messages of a consumer education curriculum which was initiated by the Ribua Ha-kahol chain of supermarkets for junior high schools in Israel. The fieldwork included an ethnographic study and revealed two prominent images of the consumer in the program’s contents and activities: "the wise consumer" and "the enterprising self." The article reflects upon the nature of empowerment that is presented through the utilitarian–individualistic figure of the consumer and probes the way the consumer choice ideology masks power relations. Conversely, the article presents an alternative, feminist approach that places emphases on the "relational self" and rejects the assumption that people act first and foremost as selfish and efficient agents. Finally, the article calls for a relational approach that will inspire an "encumbered empowerment" to consumer education and will urge pupils to infuse their self-reflecting thoughts, based on their own consumer experiences.