Boycotting as Ethical Consumerism
38 Pages Posted: 24 Aug 2019 Last revised: 1 Oct 2019
Date Written: August 21, 2019
Boycotting in response to corporations making political or social statements is an ever-increasing phenomenon. While some have argued that boycotting is an impermissible form of consumer behavior, this article argues that boycotting should be considered a form of ethical consumerism. Historically, ethical consumerism has focused on charitable giving and sustainable consumption — behaviors that utilize consumer market power to do “good”. This article argues that expressive boycotting (publicly expressing dissatisfaction with a company’s political statement by not buying its products) also harnesses consumer market power to do “good” — the good being promoting certain procedural democratic principles.
The recent increase in corporations taking political and social stands creates an imbalance of power in the marketplace of ideas. By boycotting, consumers engage in counter speech and make the marketplace of ideas more robust and efficient. Hence, this article argues that this form of consumer behavior should be encouraged. The article concludes with a research agenda for consumer psychologists to better understand expressive consumer boycotts and to begin to develop interventions to encourage them.
Keywords: boycotting, ethical consumerism, consumer psychology, political marketing, consumer behavior
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