Political Consumerism: Possibilities for International Norm Change

Theron, Jean Monique (2010-03)

MA

Thesis (MA (Political Science))--University of Stellenbosch, 2010.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Consumers are gradually becoming influential actors in the international arena. The 21st century consumer has taken on a new identity, namely that of a citizen-consumer. A rising awareness of the importance of ethical purchasing behaviour has made political citizen-consumers a vehicle through which change in normative behaviour in the capitalist world economy could be attained. Activists have realised the support that political consumers could give to campaigns that strive to achieve norm change. Consumers have the power to hold multinational corporations (MNCs) accountable for unjust practices, and through their purchasing decisions, pressure MNCs to change the manner in which they operate. In order to determine to what extent political consumerism could contribute to international norm change, one has to understand how norms emerge, when norms are accepted and at which point norms become internalised. The theoretical framework of the life-cycle of norms is ideal to test the possibilities that political consumerism holds in the quest for norm change. The application of norm life-cycle framework to case studies provides evidence that political consumerism has already announced itself as a vehicle for change. Campaigns such as the conflict diamonds campaign and the Fair Trade movement have already successfully co-opted consumers to support the goals of these campaigns and have achieved some results in changing the behaviour and policies of MNCs. Political consumers have therefore already embarked on the journey towards norm change, but have not yet been able to bring the norm to internalisation. The study determines which stage in the norm life-cycle political consumerism has managed to reach. Related to this, it asks whether it is in fact possible for activists and political consumers to complete the norm life-cycle and thereby effect norm change to enhance capacity for social justice in capitalism. The study also concerns itself with the persuasion strategies that have been used and could still be used by activists to pursue change in the normative behaviour of consumers and MNCs. Persuasion is central to convincing actors to accept and internalise a new norm. The study situates these persuasion strategies within the norm life-cycle, in order to identify the challenges facing the consumer movement and possible solutions to assist political consumerism to reach its full potential.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: In die internasionale arena het verbruikers gaandeweg die rol van invloedryke akteurs begin aanneem, naamlik dié van burgerlike-verbruikers. ‘n Toenemende bewustheid van die belangrikheid van etiese aankope het gedurende die 21ste eeu die politieke burgerlike-verbruiker in ‘n akteur omskep, wat normatiewe verandering in die kapitalistiese globale ekonomie te weeg kan bring. Aktiviste het besef dat politieke verbruikers steun aan veldtogte kan verleen wat na norm verandering streef. Omdat verbruikers oor die vermoë beskik om multi-nasionale korporasies (MNKs) vir onregverdige gebruike aanspreeklik te hou deur aankoop besluite, kan hul sodoende MNKs dwing on hul gebruike te verander. ‘n Begrip van die ontstaan en aanvaarding van norme, kan ook help om vas te stel tot watter mate politieke verbruiking tot internasionale norm verandering bydra. Die teoretiese raamwerk van die lewens-siklus van norme is ideaal om die potensiaal van politieke verbruiking te toets. Die toepassing van die norm lewens-siklus op gevallestudies bewys dat politieke verbruiking alreeds as ‘n middel vir verandering uitgekristaliseer het. Veldtogte, soos die konflik diamante veldtog en die “Fair Trade” beweging, het alreeds daarin geslaag om verbruikers te werf om die doelwitte van hierdie veldtogte te steun. Hierdie veldtogte het sodoende daarin geslaag om die verandering van MNKs se gedrag en beleid te bewerkstellig. Politieke verbruikers het hul reeds met die veldtog geassosieer om norm-verandering te laat plaasvind. Die studie het bepaal watter stadium in die norm lewens-siklus politieke verbruiking reeds bereik het, asook of dit moontlik vir aktiviste en verbruikers is om die siklus te voltooi en norm-verandering te laat plaasvind. Hierdie norm-verandering sal ook die vermoë vir die sosiale regverdiging van die kapitalistiese stelsel verbeter. Die studie het ook die aktiviste se oorredingstrategië uiteengesit, asook watter strategië in die toekoms kan gebruik word om die normatiewe gedrag van verbruikers en MNKs te verander. In die aanvaarding van nuwe norme speel oorreding ‘n belangrike rol. Die studie plaas daarom hierdie oorredingstrategië binne die norm lewens-siklus, sodat dit die uitdagings kan identifiseer wat die verbruikers-beweging in die gesig staar. Dit sal daarom vir die studie moontlik maak om werkbare opplossings voor te stel, wat politieke verbruiking tot sy volle potensiaal kan voer.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/4109
http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/4109
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