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The utopias of political consumerism: The search of alternatives to mass consumption

Journal of Consumer Culture

Published online on


This article focuses on political consumerism understood as a social movement in which a network of individual and collective actors criticize and try to differentiate themselves from traditional consumerism by politicizing the act of buying in order to search and promote other types of consumption. In this respect, they adopt a series of actions that have a collective goal but that can be either individual or collective (boycott, buycott). This article is based on a comparison of four cases in France and in the United Kingdom: two convivia of Slow Food and two more radical groups – de-growth promoters and people living in an eco-village. The angle used in this research is utopia understood both as a discourse and a set of practices. The utopian discourse includes, first, a rejection of the existing society, and, second, if not a clear conception of what another world might look like, at least the idea that another society is possible and desirable. The utopian practices need to be an attempt to create here and now at least some of the features of this utopian discourse in the hope of a spread in the rest of society. Viewing political consumerism through the lenses of utopia can help understand how actors view consumption and how they relate their acts of (non-)consuming to ideals and dreams of a better world. Utopia helps show that the particular choices of consumption, of lifestyle or the choices collectively made, are only really understandable if one looks at the logics behind them and their articulation to the ideals and hopes actors have. It can also help us see how actors articulate the individual and collective level of action since it shows that for the actors, their everyday choices of living are also done in order to achieve some necessary changes within society.