9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN05 Sociology of Consumption

2009-09-03 09:00:00 2009-09-03 10:30:00 Thursday, 3 September 09:00 - 10:30 Possibilities to consume? Building II, C5.02

Re-regulating consumption in a time of crises: An exploration of post neo-liberal regulation

Re-regulating consumption in a time of crises? An exploration of post neo-liberal regulation

Climate change as well the ongoing financial crisis affect consumption. It is simply not possible to discuss changes in contemporary consumption without taking these issues into consideration. Indeed, having to face new and severe challenges raises the need for new regulations designed to alter existing "and now unwanted" practises.

In general, social practices are formed within everyday practical routines and structures of meanings, competencies, and social relations. Changes typically take place slowly, often unnoticed, and along lines that appear as natural to the actors involved. This is often relatively unproblematic in the sense that such processes involve replacing one consumption product with another, or call for adaptations that do not challenge the social status of those engaged in the process. Crises, however, may trigger needs for abrupt changes that are much more demanding because status positions and welfare levels are severely affected. In as much as that is the case, new regulations are likely to be subjected to resistance from the parties involved.

The aim of this paper is to explore such processes in view of sociological theories of consumption and debates on regulation of consumption. Our main focus is on institutional fields where there are conflicting interests between new regulations and market powers. Two much debated consumer issues are explored; viz. meat consumption and access to loans. Each refers to a distinct type of regulation; whereas the meat issue concerns moral campaigns to voluntarily adjust oneĀ“s eating patterns, the financial issue involves legislative, command-and-control regulations. In as much as the actors do not respond to the calls for change, we ask whether the bottleneck is on the consumer side, regulator side, or perhaps somewhere else in the institutional field.