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

Political Consumerism in Israel: The Case of the Religious-Secular Struggle Over the Sabbath

Since the early days of Israeli statehood, the question of Sabbath observance has led to religious-secular struggles. Arrangements established in the early years of statehood, became known as the "Status Quo," and established compromises between religious and secular, including the character of the Sabbath. But, political, economic and demographic changes that occurred in the 1990s eroded these arrangements as more and more businesses began operating on the Sabbath. In this paper, we argue that A combination of circumstances has led to the shift from the political arena (the parliament) to the economic arena (the market) and opened the way to using political consumerism strategies to change or protect the Sabbath's character. Ulrich Beck (1997) claimed that the main arena is no longer the formal political sphere but the informal sphere of "sub-politics where citizens organize to act politically. We propose, therefore, to study the rise of sub-politics in Israel through the use of consumer power. After presenting our theoretical framework, we will delineate three main developments that influence sub-politics in the religious-secular struggle: (1) the rapid development of a consumer society influenced by liberalization, global economy and cultural changes that transformed the lifestyle of many Israelis (2) demographic changes caused by the mass immigration of mainy secular Jews from the former USSR, and (3) The Israeli government's failure and the rise of alternative politics. These changes, on the one hand, eroded the hold of old arrangements and the relevance of the political sphere and, on the other hand, led to new types of political initiatives, often outside the formal realm of politics. Finally, using media reports and open-ended interviews with religious and secular entrepreneurs we demonstrate how the economic power of religious and secular consumers is used in the new struggles over the Sabbath.