Political Consumerism as a Neoliberal Response to Youth Political Disengagement
Received: 27 September 2017 / Revised: 29 November 2017 / Accepted: 8 December 2017 / Published: 11 December 2017
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Recent trends indicate diminishing public engagement with formal electoral politics in many advanced liberal democracies, especially among the younger generations. However, evidence also suggests that there has been a simultaneous interest by many young citizens in political consumerism. In large part, this interest
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Recent trends indicate diminishing public engagement with formal electoral politics in many advanced liberal democracies, especially among the younger generations. However, evidence also suggests that there has been a simultaneous interest by many young citizens in political consumerism. In large part, this interest is shaped as a response to the individualisation and strict ‘economism’ driven by the underlying forces of neoliberalism. Disenfranchised and disillusioned by the seeming incapacity of the purely political sphere to respond to their individualised claims, and having internalised the neoliberal critique of democracy, these young empowered citizen-consumers often search for the ‘political’ within the bounds of the marketplace and are increasingly attracted to consumerist methods of political participation, such as boycotting and buycotting. Given the susceptibility of political consumerism to a neoliberal modus operandi, the lack of available literature problematising its emergence as a response to neoliberal principles is somewhat surprising. The present article will address this gap by connecting the declining levels of electoral participation among younger generations in post-crisis Europe to the rise of political consumerism within the neoliberal ideological hegemony of the ‘marketopoly’. We distinguish between two antithetical, but complimentary effects. Firstly, the internalised neoliberal critique of democracy emphasises the ‘push’ out of the public into the commercial sphere. Secondly, the emerging individualisation of modern ‘liquid’ politics advanced by the postmaterialist sensitivities of young people’s previously affluent socialisation call attention to the existence of a parallel ‘pull’ effect into the ‘marketopoly’, as a habitus of youth political participation. In both cases, the reorganisation of political participation as consumption, and the re-styling of young citizens as ‘empowered’ consumers, delineates political consumerism as an efficacious response to their political disengagement in an increasingly marketised world.