Social movements and the politics of sustainable consumption: Developing a European network and new research agenda

Sustainability and consumption are intrinsically contentious domains, concerning the ongoing struggle between different visions of prosperity, justice and the good life.

Such processes of contention are key objects of study for social movements studies and the study of environmental politics; yet disciplinary boundaries and historical accident have precluded much collaboration across these paradigms. Within environmental politics, however, some scholars have recently become interested in the ways in which people find ways of living their environmental principles through consumption decisions. 

Public demonstration in Bonn, Germany.

This ranges from everyday market choices in ethical or sustainable products to participation in co-housing and modes of community provisioning, sharing and commoning. The latter regularly become forms of collective action-oriented to social change, and as such may be understood (at least partially) within the terms of social movement scholarship.

Meanwhile, some social movement scholars have explored the ways in which the political goals that people once pursued primarily through organisations and collective action, are to some degree now pursued through lifestyle changes. For consumption scholars, meanwhile, there has been growing interest in the politics of provisioning goods and services, and how collective actors frame and responsibilise everyday practices.

Our aim is to generate a new research agenda and network by beginning with such connections and the debates that inevitably arise from making them.

Indicative publications

Project leaders