Consumption policies within different theoretical frameworks

Authored by: Dale Southerton , David Evans

Routledge Handbook on Consumption

Print publication date:  February  2017
Online publication date:  February  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138939387
eBook ISBN: 9781315675015
Adobe ISBN: 9781317380900

10.4324/9781315675015.ch18

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Abstract

This chapter critically examines consumption-oriented policies with reference to the theoretical frameworks upon which they are founded. We use the term consumption policies to capture the diversity of ways in which consumption and policy can be understood. More usually, terms like consumer or consumer behavior are used to prefix the term policy. Both are problematic and draw from a wide range of academic fields (from law to neuro-science). Consumer policies tend to refer to legislative measures designed to protect individual consumers in various ways. These can include health and safety regulations, product labeling to advise on risks (such as the voltage capacity on electronic goods), the prohibition of particular forms of consumption during designated times (for example, the sale of alcohol) or in public spaces (for example, smoking bans), or policies that seek to give vulnerable citizens greater access to consumer markets (see Kjaernes, 2011 for a discussion of consumer regulation; Everson, 2011 on consumer rights and the law). Consumer behavior policies tend to refer to initiatives that have a more voluntaristic element. These are policies that seek to change patterns of consumption by influencing the way that people live their lives, and can include social marketing to influence purchase decisions (McKenzie-Mohr, 2000), the provision of infrastructures to encourage particular activities (such as cycle lanes; see Watson, 2012), or incentivizing producers to innovate new products whose consumption might yield societal benefits (such as energy-efficient domestic appliances). Consumer policies affect consumer behavior and vice versa, and both approaches tend to reduce consumption to a matter of the purchasing choices made by individuals (Shove, 2010), who are then assumed to be responsible for the consequences of their consumption (cf. Clarke, Barnett, Cloke & Malpass, 2007).

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