Consumer Citizenship in Postnational Constellations?
European University Institute Working Paper LAW No. 2006/47
30 Pages Posted: 21 Feb 2007
Date Written: December 2006
It is perhaps a truism to note that 'the consumer' is but a role that is played by human subjects. This insight leaves us, as lawyers, with one vital question: how can or does the legal system meaningfully rationalise its encounters with the consumer? Can it, and if so to what way, shape the act of consumption? Can it even ensure that the 'fact' of consumption translates into 'good' normative institutions.
In a summarizing account of legal encounters with the consumer since the era of laissez-faire liberalism we seek to show that this potential does exist within the constitutional state. However, as markets, political systems and consumers have broken free from national communities we need to ask: will the achievements of constitutional democracies survive Europeanisation and Gliobalisation? In our assessment of current trends in the EU we diagnose a seemingly paradoxical alliance between a new orthodoxy of neo-liberalism within market relations and a de-legalisation of regulatory policies. At international level, our analysis is restricted to a single case (namely, the recent report of a WTO Panel on the controversy over Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)). It has become increasingly clear that the notion of a international consumer interest has been reduced to one of health and safety that is identified and secured with simple recourse to 'scientific expertise'. 'Sound science' has become transnationally binding yardstick that both orients and limits consumer policy. The vision of a 'consumer citizen', who would actively participate in the transformation of consumption into a normative 'good', has become a matter of utopian history.
Keywords: Europeanisation, consumer law, globalisation, international trade, risk regulation, WTO
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