Civic, cooperative or contrived? A functional approach to political consumerism motivations

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The rise of political consumerism among young citizens as a means of promoting social change has sparked debate among scholars regarding the civic potential of such political practices enacted in the private sphere of everyday life. In particular, disagreement has centred on whether and the degree to which political consumerism privatizes politics and distracts citizens from collective engagement in the public sphere. The present research argues that understanding what drives political consumerism is key to resolving this debate. Accordingly, it draws across the multidisciplinary literature on political consumerism to identify the various symbolic motivations that underlie consumers' use of ethical purchase considerations. Functional theory of attitudes is then applied as a framework for theorizing these motivations, and a scale is developed to measure value-expressive, social-identification and social-approval motivations for political consumerism. The first two studies demonstrate the subscales are reliable and have good convergent and discriminant validity, and the third study demonstrates that increasing the salience of a particular motivation through the use of strategic messages alters how it relates to the use of ethical purchase considerations as well as broader involvement in a social cause. The significance of this research for understanding how political consumerism connects to broader participation in lifestyle movements is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)552-563
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Consumer Studies
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015


  • Attitude functions
  • Lifestyle politics
  • Motivations
  • Political consumerism
  • Political participation


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