The Moral Economy of Consumption in Europe: A Multilevel Analysis across 19 European Countries
Faculty of Social Sciences University of Mannheim Mannheim, Germany
The last decade has seen a tremendous increase in the sales of fair trade, organic and ecological labelled products in Europe. Political scientists also note an increase in boycotting behaviour over time and coined the term ?political consumption? to capture the political nature of boycotting and buying for ethical, environmental and political reasons. Research on this kind of consumption behaviour thus far focuses mostly on qualitative studies or quantitative analysis of single countries. In this study I develop a cross national comparative framework to explain individual and country level differences of political, or more broadly conceived ethical consumption behaviour. Hypotheses are tested empirically using data of the 2002/2003 European Social Survey for 19 European countries. While taking into account economic and political factors I argue that especially individual value orientations are important to explain boycotting and political shopping. Thus consumers form a moral economy of consumption. However to fully understand the moral economy of consumption, explanations cannot be reduced to individual motivations, resources and costs, but also need to take into account the macro social context, in which action is embedded. Drawing on movement theories and literature on sub- politics three main aspects can be discerned to explain international differences in political consumption: the extent of globalization, national affluence and the presence of national product labelling schemes. By combining country level data with micro level data of the European Social Survey the hypotheses are tested using logistical multi level regression analysis. While on the individual level education level and individual value orientations have an important significant effect, on the macro level especially national affluence has a strong predictive power for political consumption.