Consumer protection and empowerment

Authored by: Arne Dulsrud

Routledge Handbook on Consumption

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

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


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Historically, the idea of a consumer identity has been associated with the advent of the market economy and the growing mountain of commodities in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Since then the market has been an arena through which citizens as consumers have expressed their visions of social justice, politics, the state and the government. Historians have demonstrated that political activism in terms of consumer boycotts against imported goods became a significant force during the American Revolution in the eighteenth century (Breen, 2004). Throughout the nineteenth century citizens protested against slavery in British colonies by not purchasing at shops that sold sugar produced by enslaved labor. People’s concern for basic needs, access to necessities and resistance to exploitation by dominant sellers led to the establishment of the consumer cooperative movement in England in 1844 whereby consumers organized and controlled their own provision of goods and services. According to the historian Frank Trentmann (2006) it was not until the late nineteenth century – after a number of serious protests – that a new social identity of being a consumer emerged. Citizens realized that they could voice their interest as consumers and vice-versa.

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