Linking the sociological imagination to conscious consumerism
Class readings (Berlanga, Stewart, Bansal, Nixon, Pollan, and Packer and several videos (including the PBS video on fair trade flowers and Conscious Steps) all address the issue of conscious or conscientious consumerism and informed donations. This social movement relies on consumers using their purchasing and donating power to support social values that are important to them. The key question here is whether we can shop or donate our way to doing good. As we saw in our readings, consumers are very interested in the performance of companies on issues related to the labor, the environment, and others. This movement pushes us away from the entrepreneurship problem solving charity into social and .
Think about the impact that our shopping and donating choices have on the global society. There is an increasingly active movement, driven by college students and social entrepreneurs, focusing on consumption with a conscience. These include concerns about the environment, worker exploitation, payments ot musicians, globalization, organic food, and other issues. Think critically and carefully about how our choices of what to buy and what to donate can have significant impact (positive and negative) on the world. What is the added value to shopping with these values in mind? What are the values promoted by these companies and entrepreneurs?
Prepare a four- to five-page report summarizing the points made by the authors in the articles evaluating the major arguments and summarizing your own stance on whether conscientious consumerism has real value in supporting social change. Think about consumption and donations and the ideas of the sociological imagination. What are the lessons here? Why do we know so little about how the products we purchase are produced and where the products come from? Based on the growth of this movement, does it hold promise that we can use our power as consumers to change the world? Has there been growth in consumer demand for organic food, for example? What about your own consumption patterns? Have they changed as a result of this movement? What would make these movements more attractive to consumers? Who is responsible for advancing the movement? Consumers? Social entrepreneurs? The government? Media? How would you support this movement?
When you think about fair trade and organic items, don’t over rely on arguments that assume that all consumers are governed solely by price to make choices about consumption. Remember that we often will pay a premium for items that we value deeply, whether that it based on social status, advertising, or our own perception of value, rationally understood or not.