Moralising New Parents, Moralising Markets: Consumer Culture and the Moral Contours of Early Parenthood
Sociology and Criminology Keele University Staffordshire, United Kingdom
The focal point of this paper is the constitution of new parents as pedagogical subjects in consumer culture; a process which mirrors an analogous development in the medical-health field. It is identifiable through the diverse instruction services and resources now directed at people going through this transitional phase of life, and which include a growing number of pregnancy and early parenting websites, magazines, advisory services, parenting manuals and advice books, as well as products with accompanying information. The paper examines how instructional resources targeted at new parents are organised around non-commercial and commercial dimensions, and asks why we find such proximity in practices across these domains in this field. Whilst the prominence of parental pedagogies in both fields points to the cultural salience of creating a specific type of ethical parental-consumer subject, I will here also consider how the moralities around early parenthood rebound onto markets and invade marketing practices and discourses. Theoretically, the paper interweaves perspectives from the sociology of parenting, and new parenthood in particular, with insights from recent debate on ethical consumption and from the constitution of authority, morality and trust in markets. The empirical grounding of this work comes from continuing ethnographic research conducted at The Baby Show; a UK consumer show targeted specifically at this section of the population, and which brings together a variety of commercial and non-commercial exhibitors, and pregnancy and early childhood ?experts?, with visitors consisting mainly of prospective parents, new parents, parents with young children, grandparents and friends.