Theories of (Un)sustainable Consumption

Spash, Clive L. and Dobernig, Karin (2017) Theories of (Un)sustainable Consumption. SRE - Discussion Papers, 2017/04. WU Vienna University of Economics and Business, Vienna.


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In this discussion paper we review and contrast alternative theories of consumption in terms of the intellectual basis they provide for understanding sustainable behaviours. A defining aspect of the modern literature in this field is the emphasis on the individual as a volitional agent who engages wilfully in the decision to consume. This is in stark contrast to earlier literature that concentrated on the structural lock-in of individuals to undesirable consumption patterns and the powers of corporations in creating consumer demand for their products and services. We argue that, in order to unravel consumption in its full complexity, and as a matter of utmost importance, understanding must include both the buy-in of individual agents, whose consumption activities contribute to their self-identity, and the structure imposed by the institutions of society, that frame the context of actors' decisions. More than this, any move away from the current unsustainable consumption patterns prevalent in modern societies requires a richer conceptualisation of consumption that involves an awareness and examination of the political economy in which humans live.

Item Type: Paper
Additional Information: A version of this discussion paper will appear in the forthcoming book: Spash, C.L. (ed.)(2017). Routledge Handbook of Ecological Economics: Nature and Society. Abingdon: Routledge.
Keywords: sustainable consumption, structure, agency, nudging, social practice theory, technostructure, corporate power, social ecological transformation
Divisions: Departments > Sozioökonomie > Multi-Level Governance and Development
Depositing User: ePub Administrator
Date Deposited: 06 Apr 2017 09:48
Last Modified: 22 Oct 2019 00:41


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