9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN05 Sociology of Consumption

2009-09-05 11:00:00 2009-09-05 12:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 11:00 - 12:30 Politics of Consumption Building II, C5.01

Consumer policy, consumption practices and consumer society

Governmental consumer policy is influencing everyday consumer practices to some degree. The state is trying to reduce or remove disadvantages that citizens occupy as consumers. As governmental high-level plan intended to guide consumption processes, consumer policy reflects to a minor degree social consumption practices. Nowadays, consumer policy is substantially founded on narrow individualistic conceptions of the consumer. Therefore, this paper tries to elaborate on how social practices are shaped by consumer policy and thus consumer society as a whole.

Ethnographic diary data scrutinizes consumption practices against the background of consumer policy regulations. Consumption practices as a nexus of understandings, procedures and engagements constitute the material culture as basis for regulation. Principally focussing on markets, consumer policy influences consumer society to an important extent disregarding other issues such as gender or ethical consumption.

The delineation of consumer policy conceptions moreover assists the development of an understanding of the interdependencies between consumer policy and consumption practices in everyday life. The development of consumer policy emanates from classic liberal free trade thinking aiming at opening and liberalisation of markets. In 1992, consumer policy became a joint European policy with the intend of creating a single European market. In 2001, the BSE crisis aroused interest on consumer policy, as food safety and healthy living environments became central to the European Union?s objectives of continuously improving the quality of life for all European citizens. Hence this paper emphasizes interdependencies between a macrostructure of society and practitioners in routinised consumption practices.