Special Session Summary Rhetorics of Resistance, Discourses of Discontent

Eileen Fischer, York University
[ to cite ]:
Eileen Fischer (2001) ,"Special Session Summary Rhetorics of Resistance, Discourses of Discontent", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 28, eds. Mary C. Gilly and Joan Meyers-Levy, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 123-124.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 28, 2001     Pages 123-124

SPECIAL SESSION SUMMARY

RHETORICS OF RESISTANCE, DISCOURSES OF DISCONTENT

Eileen Fischer, York University

With notable exceptions (e.g. Firat and Venkatesh 1995; Hermann 1982,1993; Murray and Ozanne 1991; Ozanne and Murray 1995; Pe±aloza and Price 1993), the consumer behavior literature has been more concerned to understand what makes people happy shoppers, buyers and owners than to understand what makes them try resist the siren songs of the market. And although more consumer researchers are likely to be attuned to consumer resistance in the wake of such phenomena as the "Battle of Seattle," where protestors effectively shut down talks organized by the World Trade Organization, this session was not simply a topical look at a timely issue. Rather, the premise of this session was that we cannot consider consumer resistance as an interesting phenomenon marginal to our real concern of understanding those who want to consume. Rather, as the papers in this session show, we must understand consumption and resistance as co-constituting discourses that are inextricably linked: to understand one, we must understand discursive practices associated with the other.

The session’s purpose, then, was to deepen our understanding of some of the emerging or escalating practices of consumer resistance by focusing on how those practices are rhetorically constructed and re-constructed in dynamic tension with consumption. The first paper (Handelman) took an institutional perspective to examine the tactics that boycotters and activists use to subvert marketing practices, showing how consumer activists may appropriate marketers’ tools and tactics in order to redefine them (cf Pe±aloza and Price 1993).

The second paper (Fischer) placed contemporary forms of resistance in historical context as emergent collective action frames tht are informed by past activist traditions. Drawing on social movement and evolutionary theory, the paper focused on the dynamics of problem definition, solution identification, and mobilization of action.

The third paper (Holt) examined critically the rhetorics of consumer resistance that have been generated in the academy and mass media and considered the social effects of these rhetorics in relation to the interests of capital. The session discussant, Lisa Pe±aloza, drew on her conceptual model of consumer resistance (Pe±aloza and Price 1993) to situate the papers and identify their contributions to our understanding of both resistance and consumption.

The papers were relevant to a broad spectrum of those whose interests range from consumer activism, to public policy and from branding to symbolic consumption.

ABSTRACT - S

 

"CHANGING THE RULES: AN INSTITUTIONAL PERSPECTIVE ON THE RHETORICS OF CONSUMER ACTIVISM"

Jay Handelman

This research studies the rhetorics of resistance used by Nike boycotter and Media Foundation culture jammers to subvert marketing images and norms. The researchers used a three-year ethnographic study of boycotters and culture jammers that included archival research, semistructured interviews, and participant-observation at a boycotting event. The findings were examined from a perspective drawn from institutional theory. Four aspects of the rhetorics of consumer resistance were identified: defining a higher purpose, exposing the boundaries between organization and environment, recoupling the negative actions of the corporations with their brands, and linking consumer resistance to legitimate norms and institutions.

 

"EVOLUTION IN RHETORICS OF RESISTANCE: AN ANALYSIS OF THE EMERGENCE OF THE ANTI-BRAND MOVEMENT"

Eileen Fischer

This paper draws on recent developments in the literature on social movements and institutional evolution to investigate the emergence of the collective action frames embodied in the current "no-logo" campaign. Drawing on a variety of textual materials generated by leaders in the movements, current action frames for consumer resistance are shown to be rooted in, and a reaction to, the problems analysed and solutions identified in earlier movements. Implications of this historically situated analysis for understanding the dynamics of contemporary consumer resistance movements are discussed, as are the implications for understanding collective consumer behavior of other types.

 

"DECONSTRUCTING CONSUMER RESISTANCE: HOW THE REIFICATION OF COMMODIFIED CULTURAL SOVEREIGNTY IS ENTAILED IN THE PARASITIC POSTMODERN MARKET"

Douglas B. Holt

How does the cultural organization of consumptionCconsumer cultureBaid the market? Consumer culture is usually represented using the metaphor of cultural authority: the idea that consumers grant the market tastemaking power to orchestrate consumption meanings and practices. I use case analyses of long interviews to argue against this rhetoric. Rather than cultural authority, postmodern consumer culture is premised upon taken-for-granted acceptance that one pursues cultural sovereignty as a consumer. The market today thrives on people who pursue individuating identity projects through nonconformist, local, producerly consumption practices. Postmodern marketing, operating within this new consumer culture, increasingly acts as a parasitic cultural machine that constantly pilfers from public culture to cycle through commodities a massive and dynamic universe of meanings, sensibilities, and pleasures.

 

REFERENCES

Firat, A. Fuat and Alladi Venkatesh (1995), "Liberatory Postmodernism and the Reenchantment of Consumption," JCR 22 (December), 239-267.

Herrmann, Robert O. (1982), "The Consumer Movement in Historial Perspective," in Consumerism: The Search for the Consumer Interest, 4th edition, David Aaker and George Day, New York NY: Free Press, 23-32.

Herrmann, Robert O. (1993), "The Tactics of Consumer Resistance: Group Action and Marketplace Exit," in Advances in Consumer Research, Volume 20, ed. Leigh McAlister and Michael L. Rothschild, Provo, UT: Association for Consumer Research, 130-134.

Murray, Jeff B. and Julie L. Ozanne (1991), "The Critical Imagination: Emancipatory Interests in Consumer Research," Journal of Consumer Research, 18(September), 129-144.

Ozanne, Julie and Jeff Murray (1995), "Uniting Critical Theory and Public Policy to Create the Reflexively Defiant Consumer," American Behavioral Scientist, 38(February), 516-525.

Penaloza, Lisa and Linda L. Price (1993), "Consumer Resistance: A Conceptual Overview," in Advances in Consumer Research, Volume 20, ed. Leigh McAlister and Michael L. Rothschild, Provo, UT: Association for Consumer Research, 123-128.

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