Moral Consumerism

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The assignment of moral consumerism onto the individual citizen, labeled “the individualization of responsibility” by Maniates (p.33) is the popular idea that consumers can buy their way out of ecological problems through informed purchases, and shifts blame away from the product manufacturers. Maniates goes on to discredit the idea of “consumption-as-social-action” and reveals that during the 1980’s in the United States, “responsibility for creating and fixing environmental problems was radically reassigned, from government, corporations,…to individual consumers and their decisions in the marketplace.” (Maniates, p.39) The idea of consumption as a solution continues with consumers who are trying to protect themselves from toxins and pollutants by purchasing what they perceive to be safe products. They often make their choices based on trust or belief of a products marketing or labeling, without any observable metrics. This idea again assigns the responsibility, of contaminant avoidance in this case, onto the consumer. (MacKendrick, Stevens, p. 311) And again, the manufacturers avoid blame or culpability for offering unhealthy products.

Individual citizens are unable to maintain this responsibility. Solutions to issues regarding the continued production of harmful products require the political strength of whole societies to place the responsibility onto the corporations and manufacturers. The individual mandate of responsibility needs to shift its focus to reducing the level of consumption, no longer having to judge the morality or toxicity of a product.



Hickman, Matt. “Green Product Certification: 21 Symbols You Should Recognize.” Mother Nature Network. Oct, 2013. Photo:ducu59us/shutterstock

MacKendrick, Nora., and Stevens, Lindsay. “‘Taking Back a Little Bit of Control’: Managing the Contaminated Body Through Consumption.” Sociological Forum, vol. 31, no. 2, June 2016, pp. 310-329.

Maniates, Michael. “Individualization: Plant a Tree, Buy a Bike, Save the World?” Global Environmental Politics, vol.1, no. 3, 2001, pp. 31-52

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