Track 1.17: Terry Pratchett’s Boot Theory: Exploring the Role of Disposable Products in Reinforcing the Cycle of Poverty
“Take boots for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about 10 dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles. But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while a poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent 100$ on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet. This was the Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boot’ theory of socio-economic unfairness.”
– Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms.
High-quality, long-lasting goods—such as the above pair of good boots—often require a high investment upfront but can help save money over the long term by minimizing repeated waste. People who live in poverty are often unable to access these quality goods because of a lack of resources (Blocker et al., 2013), while suffering additional strains and stigma in the marketplace (Hutton, 2015; Olsen et al., 2020; Pearson et al., 2018; Randles, 2021). Higher quality goods or even minimal niceties are considered less permissible for lower-income people, even though boundaries between luxuries and necessities are porous (Pew Report). People living in poverty are hence not granted full access to the consumption spectrum but are seen as having only basic needs (Hagerty and Baratz, 2020). A corollary is that investing in long-lasting solutions and goods to help ease their burden might be seen as a less judicious choice, regardless of the positive consequences. Such as implied in Terry Pratchett’s boot theory: policies should encourage poverty alleviation by minimizing the constant repurchasing of broken or disposable products. We are asking: Are our policies (and our policymakers) forcing short-term behaviors, including buying disposable instead of long-lasting quality goods, and if so, why? Alternatively, is there a better model out there for reimagining public policy with a focus on sustainable, long-term buying behaviors, such as reframing quality products, and breaking down initial investments to make them more socially acceptable?
- Assemble a team of researchers and practitioners who will work on the topic of poverty and quality goods.
- Explore the interconnections between investment in quality, long-term goods, and poverty.
- Develop a framework through which to examine how perceptions of consumption choices of people living in poverty might affect long-term outcomes and explore related interventions leading towards longer-term policy investments.
Selection of Participants
Our ideal track would involve 3 or 4 additional academic researchers, including at least 1 doctoral student, and 1 or 2 community action partners (or people involved in public policy). We hope to put together a diverse team with a range of methodological expertise, a deep interest in this area, and a variety of perspectives and backgrounds.
Track team members will read key papers and conduct a literature review. Participants will be asked to develop potential avenues of research.
Conference Day 1
Team will engage in small group discussions about proposed avenues of research to advance and present their ideas to the full team for feedback. Key ideas and findings from the literature review and other preconference activities will be organized and outlined; a framework for the paper submission will be developed. (3)
Conference Days 2-3
Team will discuss and refine the framework. We will continue to work on the paper submission and related future projects, and develop a plan to continue our work post-conference.
Team will meet regularly to discuss progress on drafts and advancement on paper submission.
For queries related to this track please email: Bridget Leonard, email@example.com
To apply to this track, please email a Research Vision to Bridget Leonard, firstname.lastname@example.org
Track Chair Bios
Bridget Leonard (email@example.com) is an Assistant Professor of Marketing in the Grenon School of Business at Assumption University. Her research examines consumer well-being in different areas, including food marketing to children, and emotional well-being during the pandemic. Her work has been published in the Journal of Consumer Affairs, the Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, and the Journal of Consumer Psychology. Bridget holds a PhD in Marketing from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Aida Faber (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an Assistant Professor of Marketing in the Faculty of Business at Laval University. Her research examines how attachment relationships influence consumer behaviors, particularly food choices and eating experiences. More broadly, Aida has a deeply entrenched interest in understanding how marketing can help improve consumer wellbeing, and uses a variety of theoretical and methodological approaches to do so. With more than a decade of experience working in multi-disciplinary teams, Aida’s work has been published in the Journal of Consumer Affairs, PloS One, and Appetite. Aida holds a PhD in Marketing from McGill University.