chapter  8
15 Pages

Buying a Better World: Ethical Consumption and the Critical Social Sciences

ByKIM HUMPHREY

Consumption has not fared at all well in the sociological and, more broadly, the critical social scientific domain; a domain that emerged in parallel with the very formation of the commodity system that is now globally dominant. The ready subordination of consumption to production by nineteenthcentury thinkers-with work aligned to a politics of emancipation and the commodity equated with a pathology of fetishistic desire-indelibly shaped the rise and trajectory of critical social science. It is thus no exaggeration to characterize much sociological and related social theoretical critique, especially in the twentieth century, as deeply framed by a condemnation of consumption. Indeed, the onward march of consumerism-as the logic of capitalist exchange-has been unswervingly portrayed as destructive of social bonds, civic engagement, and ethical responsibility.