Boycott and Buycott as Emerging Modes of Civic Engagement

Boycott and Buycott as Emerging Modes of Civic Engagement

Emmanuel Adugu (Department of Government, Sociology and Social Work, University of West Indies, Bridgetown, Barbados)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/ijcesc.2014070104
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Citizens in post-industrialized societies such as the United States are becoming dissatisfied with some public policy decisions on the provisioning of food, prompting engagement in buycotts and boycotts as means to influence policy change. Such politically motivated consumptive behavior with social change motives is referred as political consumption. Using data from Ohio 2007 Survey of Food, Farming and the Environment, this research examines the attitudinal and demographic correlates of engagement in buycott and boycott. Findings reveal that engagement in boycott and buycott are shaped by food safety concern and knowledge of food production respectively. Both boycott and buycott behaviors are positively associated with conventional political action and organic labels. Those with greater political efficacy and high incomes are more likely to engage in buycott. These emerging forms of consumer-oriented political engagement may constitute an important force in setting the agenda for social change with respect to the issues targeted.
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In the United States and other parts of the industrialized world, there is a growing dissatisfaction within civil society regarding issues such as food safety, environmental degradation, social justice and corporate practices. Anecdotal and case study evidence suggest the inability of the conventional political system to deal effectively with citizens concerns, resulting in the emergence of new forms of political action such as such as boycotts—punishing businesses for unfavorable behavior (Neilson, 2010, p. 214) and buycotts—the deliberate act of purchasing a product to support specific ethical, moral, or political concerns (Sandovici & Davis, 2010, p. 329). This development may be motivating consumers to use the marketplace as a site for political action (Goodman & DuPuis, 2002; Stolle & Hooghe, 2005; Stolle & Micheletti, 2013). Such politically motivated consumptive behavior with societal and political change motives is referred as political consumption. According to Webster (1975), a political consumer is someone who takes into account the public consequences of his or her private consumption or who attempts to use his or her purchasing power to bring about social change. It includes the related acts of buycotting and boycotting (Neilson, 2010). It is an alternative mode of political/civic engagement (Keum, Devanathan, Deshpande, Nelson & Shah, 2004; Stolle, Hooghe & Micheletti, 2005).

The use of the marketplace as a site for political action is a relatively new (or at least less studied) form of political participation (Giddens, 1991; Galston, 1991; Micheletti, Follesdal & Stolle, 2006). It reflects recognition of material products as embedded in a complex social and normative context (Micheletti, 2003). In that regard, scholars contend that citizens are refraining from engaging in established (conventional such as attending a political rally, and signing a petition) political participation and resort to unconventional forms (such as boycott and buycott) of political action due to distrust and inefficiency of conventional forms of political participation to address their concerns in post-industrialized societies (Inglehart & Baker, 2000; Norris, 2002). The rise of buycotts and boycotts reflects a growing perception by consumers that the market is a viable medium through which to express their political and social concerns (Micheletti, 2010). According to Togebey (1993), these emerging forms of political participation mobilize new social groups into politics and also extend the conventional political participation repertoire. Similarly, political consumption actions may supplement conventional forms of political participation (Stromes, 2009).

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