Paradoxes of Consumer Independence: A Critical Discourse Analysis of the Independent Traveler
Marketing Theory, Vol. 8, No. 3, 2008
Posted: 14 Sep 2010
Date Written: September 2008
The ideology of independence lies at the very core of the marketing agenda. For the free market to operate as a legitimate means of social organization, the right to be independent and to be free to enact ostensibly independent choices is to all intents and purposes sacred. Independence is an especially critical concept for marketing academics and practitioners to understand given the need to reconcile consumer demand for a sense of individuality, freedom and self, with an organization’s need to commodify consumption activities in order to realize market growth. This paper examines the ways in which a sense of independence is successfully offered to consumers within paradoxically mass-market communications. The study investigates what it means to be an independent traveller by implementing a critical discourse analysis of alternative guidebooks. Findings suggest that guidebooks construct independence by reifying inaccessibility, interpreting value, and constructing inauthenticity for consumers. This promulgates a powerful myth of the independent traveler as someone who defies inaccessibility, hunts for bargains, and avoids inauthenticity. Crucially, each of these cultural practices also acts to engender an implicit relation of dependency between the text and the tourist that is found to contradict, but ultimately not threaten, the whole notion of independence that the consumption experience itself is predicated on.
Keywords: commodity, critical discourse analysis, guidebook, independence
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