The Debate over Corporate Social Responsibility

By Steve May; George Cheney et al. | Go to book overview

17

Consumer Activism and Corporate
Social Responsibility
How Strong a Connection?

BRENDEN E. KENDALL REBECCA GILL GEORGE CHENEY


CONSUMERISMS IN THE
TWENTIETH CENTURY
AND BEYOND

The Reframing of Consumption
as a Primary Goal

“Consumerism was the twentieth century's winning 'ism'” (Gopnik, 1997, p. 80). With this bold and deliberately ironic statement, a writer for the New Yorker magazine made the point that whatever other movements rose and fell in the past 100 years or so, the force of consumerism is with us. Indeed, it is now so common to speak of “consumer society,” to substitute the term “consumer” for “citizen,” and to speak of nations like China as “emerging markets of consumer power,” that in everyday talk consumption has ceased to be an object of attention. For people in industrialized societies, regardless of their position on the political spectrum, consumption is not just a means to live but a way of life (Miles, 1998). And nowhere perhaps is this truer than in the contemporary United States.

But, how did we get here? At the turn of the twentieth century, “consumption” referred primarily to use, to waste, and to the disease of tuberculosis. That is, the term had negative and neutral meanings, but not particularly positive ones. With the advent of lifestyle advertising (and indeed, the notion of lifestyle choice itself) in the 1920s, the rise of mass production technologies from the 1910s onward, and especially through the creation of the marketing discipline in the 1950s, consumption became elevated beyond need and desire to a fundamental pursuit (see the critical history in Ewen, 1976).

By the mid-1970s, most neo-Marxist theorists and writers agreed that the focus of a contemporary critique of capitalism must shift from production to consumption, in recognition of the nexus of images of individual success, material comfort, and even transcendent “salvation” that accompany late-twentieth-century consumption practices (Baudrillard, 1980).

The 1960s and early 1970s, of course, gave voice to consumer activism (e.g., Nader, 1965) just as the period featured broader movements reacting against material indulgence and the traditional emblems of success in capitalist democracies. This consumer activism centered, first, on awareness of issues such as safety and integrity of products/ services, extending to demands for information under the banner of “consumer protection.” Today's Simple Living movement (see http://www .simpleliving.net/) is to some extent the successor to the back-to-basics and counterculture “return to nature” of that earlier period.

What is especially interesting for our purposes is how that so-called “radical” period also gave rise to—or at least was trumped by—an even more thoroughly consumptive culture and the almost

-241-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Debate over Corporate Social Responsibility
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
/ 490

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.