Conference Agenda

RN05_06b: Politcal consumption
Thursday, 22/Aug/2019:
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Luke Yates, University of Manchester
Location: BS.G.35
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Business School, Ground Floor Oxford Road


Collective Action, Consumption Practices And Prefiguration In The Animalist Movement

Irène Courtin

Université de Genève, France

In recent months, in France and Switzerland, actions aimed at damaging butcher shops have captured media attention and fueled debates, even within the animalist movement. At the centre of discussions is the classical opposition between a political and necessarily collective action, and ethical forms of consumption often associated with individualism. We argue that practice theory can be fruitful for studying both consumption practices and campaigning practices within a social movement, going beyond this dichotomy between political action and « lifestyle ». 

This proposed paper reflects on how theoretical contributions could further develop practice theory to better analyse « the roles of collective actors, strategic action and purposive collective projects in social change » (Welch and Yates, 2017), along with social movements literature on everyday politics and prefiguration, conceptualizing prefiguration as a configuration of practices (Yates, 2014). First, we review both the anglophone and francophone literature on veganism and the animalistic movement, focusing on the limits of conceptual approaches. Then, we propose a framework for studying the animalist movement in relation to prefigurative politics. We provide initial insights on how such an approach is useful towards going beyond the binary tension between ethical consumption practices and political activism.

We conclude with a discussion around practice theory in relation to social change, relevant towards the study of other social and environmental movements. This project ultimately aims to demonstrate how what Carrié (2015) termed the « animalist nebula » is both a protest movement but also a configuration of practices towards societal transformation.

Alternative Food Organizations in Geneva: At the Interplay of Market and Democracy

Johanna Clara Huber, Jasmine Lorenzini

University of Geneva, Switzerland

Citizens increasingly voice demands for more control over the food

system. While popular initiatives aim at institutional change through

the state, Alternative Food Organizations (AFOs) propose to

transform society through direct action. The question we ask is to

what extent do AFOs propose transformative goals and

organizational structures that contribute to societal change? AFOs

are associations or social enterprises active in the food sector, which

promote an alternative understanding of the food system. They are

either oriented towards the market (e.g. participatory supermarket,

food basket) or offer a non-commodified understanding of food (e.g.

freeganism or food banks). Existing research tends to focus on case

studies focusing on a single type of AFOs. This paper contributes to

the literature through a comprehensive analysis of the Genevan

alternative food sector. We use an original dataset of AFOs collected

for the canton of Geneva in 2019. The dataset allows us to map all

organizations active in the field and to compare the relative

importance of democratic goals and aims to transform the market.

We hypothesize a link between democratic goals and non-monetary

actions – the organizations that promote the exchange, donation, or

self-production of goods are more likely to establish horizontal and

participatory governance structures. This paper shows how vibrant

the food movement is but also the limited transformative goals that

AFOs defend. Only few AFOs promote alternatives to the market

that challenge both commodification processes and hierarchical

decision-making in the food system.

Voluntary Simplicity in Consumer Capitalism

Renata Dopierała

University of Lodz, Poland

In the paper I consider the tensions between Voluntary Simplicity assumptions and the logic of late capitalism and the consumer society. Voluntary Simplicity is analyzed as the reorientation towards post-materialistic values and it can be treated as an example of new spirituality - the need of individual growth, internal self-improvement and raising the consciousness to higher level. A specific contradiction arises here. On one hand, the dependency (or even correspondence) between the characteristics of new spirituality and the attributes of the consumer society, which contributed to its emergence. The growth of culture of subjective well-being is an element of the logic of the modern capitalism, which transforms not only experience and observations, but also spirituality into goods confined within consumer activity, characterized by decidedly commercial dimension. On the other hand the essence of the new spirituality is anti-consumerism and it should not be treated as a pillar of consumer capitalism - the popularization of simple life would have to led to questioning the imperatives governing the consumer society.

Are Political Attitudes Associated with Participation in Cultural Heritage? Lifestyles and Class Divisions in the UK And Continental Europe

Andrew Graham Miles2, Adrian Leguina1

1University of Loughborough, United Kingdom; 2University of Manchester, United Kingdom

There is a growing interest in understanding the underlying mechanisms that explain the relationship between political attitudes and cultural preferences. Recent studies have considered the relationship between cultural practices and the current political climate (including ‘Brexit’), liberal-conservative values, party affiliation, and European identities. Although this body of literature agrees that being engaged in activities across the low-to-highbrow cultural divide is associated with traditional right and left political values, it also draws a more complex picture, where fragmented views that suggest a reshuffling of the political spectrum interact with tensions around new and old class formations. Moreover, the possibility of generalizing such understandings is restricted by the lack of comparable frames of reference, methods and data. In response, what we propose that the notion of a correspondence between the cultural and political fields needs to be revisited. Here we review Bourdieusian concepts such as homology and field, and argue that by combining them with the use of multiple factor analysis we can better disentangle the complex relationship between political values and cultural participation. Our proposed framework and analytical strategy are applied to a study of Eurobarometer data (2017) on political attitudes, media consumption and cultural heritage. In particular, we address the following questions: Does the hypothesis of structural homology between the social space, political attitudes and cultural heritage hold in the UK? Is the strength of their association similar across Europe (North, South, East, Central)? What does this reveal in terms of the current political climate across Europe?