Ethics and Action: A Relational Perspective on Consumer Choice in the European Politics of Food [Book Review]

The lack of consistency between people’s engagement in ethical issues and their food choices has received considerable attention. Consumption as “choice” dominates this discourse, understood as decision-making at the point of purchase. But ideas concentrating on individual choice are problematic when trying to understand how social and ethical issues emerge and are dealt with in the practices of buying and eating food. I argue in this paper that “consumer choice” is better understood as a political ideology addressing a particular way in which everyday practices can be directed so as to solve social problems. It is a way that makes questions of power particularly challenging. Some assume consumer sovereignty, emphasizing consumer choice as a reflection of neoliberal deregulation and commercialization. Others worry that ongoing changes increase consumers’ powerlessness. None of these seem to capture that there is active regulation, where public as well as commercial and civil actors are making strong efforts to make people do the right thing—voluntarily. Labeling is the key measure. In practice, the individualized and rationalized model of responsibility depends not only on market opportunities, but even political and social expectations and trust. People may lack concrete capabilities and power to follow up on moral calls, but they may also have a different understanding of who is responsible and what is a “good deed,” or their actions may, in a Foucauldian sense, represent resistance. The paper will, with examples from European empirical studies, discuss how mobilization as well as inertia and disinterest emerge within specific political constellations and practical contexts.
Keywords Food  Consumption  Political consumerism  Ethics  Trust  Labeling
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DOI 10.1007/s10806-011-9315-5
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References found in this work BETA
Michael Power (1999). The Audit Society: Rituals of Verification. British Journal of Educational Studies 47 (1):92-94.

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