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Consumer Activism

Consumer Activism
Promotional Culture and Resistance

September 2022 | 256 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

"A crucial intervention to both critical studies of consumption and research into activism. It authoritatively explores the complex and multiplying links between branding and neoliberal culture, consumer practices and social justice."
– Professor Mehita Iqani, Stellenbosch University

"Eleftheria Lekakis reminds us that as consumers, we can do much more than just buy our way out of social or political problems."
– Professor Melissa Aronczyk, Rutgers University

Consumption and resistance are entwined. From buying fair-trade, to celebrity advocates for social causes, to subvertising and anti-consumerist grassroots movements, consumer activism is now a key part of our fight for social and environmental justice.

This book is a comprehensive exploration of the complexities and dilemmas of using the marketplace as an arena for politics. It goes beyond simply buying or boycotting to critically explore how individuals, collectives, corporations and governments do politics with and through consumption.

Impassioned and always accessible, Eleftheria Lekakis explores:

  • The media and economic logics which privilege elite activists.
  • The real opportunities to resist and redirect promotional culture.
  • Consumer activism as collective and community-building.
  • The politicisation of celebrity influencers.
  • The centrality of digital media technology.
  • A range of transnational case studies pushing the field beyond the Global North.

Consumer Activism: Promotional Culture and Resistance covers the full breadth of theory and practice you need to know. It is an essential resource for understanding, researching and engaging with the global phenomenon of consumer activism. 

Dr Eleftheria Lekakis is senior lecturer in Media and Communications at the School of Media, Arts, and Humanities at the University of Sussex.

Consumer Activism: An Introduction
Conceptualizing Consumer Activism
Nationalism, Race, Ethnicity, and Consumer Activism
Gender, Feminism and Consumer Activism
Consumer Activism in the Environment
Celebrity Advocacy and Consumer Activism
Subvertising as Anti-Consumerism

Consumers of the world, unite! Consumer Activism is both an excellent intellectual reference and a savvy guide for educators and students. Eleftheria Lekakis reminds us that as consumers, we can do much more than just buy our way out of social or political problems. Through creative and collective efforts, consumers can work to end unfair and inequitable market practices, and can promote concerted action on such major issues as climate change, racial justice or women’s rights. Rich with key concepts, contemporary themes, and provocative case studies, this book will foster necessary conversations about power and politics in consumer culture. 

Melissa Aronczyk
Associate Professor of Media Studies, Rutgers University

This book offers a crucial intervention to both critical studies of consumption and action research into activism. It authoritatively explores the complex and multiplying links between branding and neoliberal culture, consumer practices and social justice, and calls for an urgent renegotiation of ethics in response. Consumer Activism will be an indispensable resource for research and pedagogy in the urgent years ahead, as humanity reckons with the effects climate change, deepening inequality, and increasingly feverish consumption. 

Mehita Iqani
South African Research Chair in Science Communication, Stellenbosch University

Consumer Activism discusses in an interesting way the complexities of and dilemmas involved in using the market as an arena for politics. Eleftheria Lekakis argues for putting more scholarly emphasis on the global South and considering more systematically the role of nationalism, race, ethnicity, gender, feminism, and environmentalism in this form of activism. Thought-provoking examples on these topics are included in the book. Importantly, the book focuses on the role of celebrity and corporate promotion, and even anti-consumerist activism. The term “consumer solutionism” is coined to emphasis the limitations of consumer activism as a central means of contemporary resistance today. This book adds additional perspectives to the study of political consumerism.   

Michele Micheletti
Professor Emerita in Political Science, Stockholm University

An interesting, well written, and thoughtful book that by posing particular emphasis on advertising and promotional communication addresses the complex question of why consumers, especially in wealthy nations, keep overconsuming by virtually ignoring the consequences on other people and our planet. Eleftheria Lekakis critically explores alternatives and opportunities for resistance by focusing on practices of consumer activism aimed at raising awareness and promoting more just and sustainable uses of the marketplace. 

Francesca Forno
Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Trento

With a rich array of illustrative examples, this new book shines a light on consumer activism, and the myths that surround political resistance in promotional culture. In travelling this path, Eleftheria Lekakis draws on key thinkers in the field, and confronts us to ask: to what extent are consumers agents of change? And, has the very idea of ‘social change’ been harnessed and commodified by advertisers? This unflinching book provokes us to think about the ways social justice, ethics and diversity are embedded within the symbolic ambiguities of an immersive market-facing society. In doing so, it is a timely challenge to naïve or misplaced ideas of ‘digital solutionism’. Teachers and students alike will find this book a valuable resource that opens new research trajectories. 

Kristin Demetrious
Associate Professor of Communication at Deakin University

What is consumer activism? Does it contribute to ethical or sustainable consumption? What are the related actors and factors associated with this phenomena? Under which manifestations of injustice is it salient? This book adopts a consumer culture theory perspective to address comprehensively, critically and scientifically those important questions for our societies. The author, Eleftheria Lekakis, reviews and discusses systematically the phenomenon of consumer activism through its main contemporary mobilizations for nationalistic (racial/ ethnic), gender (feminist/queer) and environmental (green/ sustainable) causes. This book provides both a critical review and a concrete guideline for academics and practitioners.  

Charlotte Gaston-Breton
Full Professor in Marketing, ESCP Business School

Lekakis’s thought provoking book is an essential guide for researchers investigating consumer activism and for practitioners who believe they can, in the spirit of Graeber and Wengrow, reinvent realities. It opens up questions on how and to what extent these realities can be reinvented through consumption activism, highlighting the complex and nuanced dynamics. 

Professor Maria Carolina Zanette
NEOMA Business School
Consumption, Markets and Culture

Lekakis critically examines how citizens, collectives and corporations use the marketplace for political purposes. The strength of Consumer Activism rests in its ability to comprehensively navigate readers through the interdisciplinary and shifting terrains of consumer activism studies, advocating for a systematic consideration of the role that nationalism, race, ethnicity, gender, feminism, environmentalism, celebrity, influencer and anti-consumerism play in consumer activism. It is accessible to both new and established scholars in the field of consumer activism, promotional media and communication studies broadly. For students majoring in advertising, marketing and communication studies, the clear and logical content arrangement and timely case studies can help them better understand the complexity of consumer activism and its significance in today’s consumer society. 

Dr Zizheng Yu
University of Exeter
Consumption and Society

Lekakis investigates the dissipation of capitalist consumerism and the immoral practices of current markets, as well as possible alternatives of resistance to destructive capitalist consumerism... One of the strengths of this book lies on its insightful analysis of examples both from the Global North and the Global South. The book takes a truly global approach by strategizing and staging strategies of consumer activists, as well as the cultural differences in a globalized capitalist world.

Lekakis encourages us to re-envision and rethink the possibilities of consumer activism we are presented with in addressing global social change, cultural and environmental challenges. She accomplishes her ambitious objectives by providing an analytically rich book which offers a wide range of interesting topics and a fruitful and productive analysis of consumer capitalism and resistance in the 21st century.   

Professor Yesim Kaptan
Kent State University
European Journal of Cultural Studies

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