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Ethical consumption as a Subjective Life Project: Reflexive Construction of an Ethical Self in the Contexts of Objective Reality

Manyukhina, Yana (2016) Ethical consumption as a Subjective Life Project: Reflexive Construction of an Ethical Self in the Contexts of Objective Reality. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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In this thesis, I explore and interpret ethical food consumption as a site of formation, negotiation, and articulation of individuals’ personal and social identities. Drawing on Margaret Archer's conceptualization of reflexivity as an essential human property and identity as a unique constellation of ultimate concerns about the world and our relationships with it, I develop an account of ethical consumer practices as subjective, reflexive, and intentional projects of morally concerned agents through which they attain their desired self-concepts and engage with corresponding social roles. By exploring the origins of the participants’ concerns over food ethics and tracing the evolution of their dietary commitments, I yield an understanding of how people develop ethical consumers identities as well as how they negotiate their moral food projects within the constantly changing objective conditions and subjective circumstances. Coming from a critical realist perspective, I examine the ways in which agency and structure interact to give rise to idiosyncratic ethical consumer practices and pursuits, the role that both agential and structural properties and powers play in shaping individuals’ engagement in ethical food consumption, and how both the continuities and inconsistencies of subjective ethical food commitments might be explained, thus aiming toward a more comprehensive social theory about the underlying causal mechanisms and generative principles of ethical consumer practices and identities. In doing so, I seek to put critical pressure on the conceptual fallacies and methodological biases that reside in the field of consumer research and, in counterbalance, point to a more integrated and balanced approach to studying, understanding, and explaining consumer behaviour in general and ethical consumer practices in particular. I contribute to larger theoretical debates on the relationships between consumption activities and the construction of individual identities as well as the interplay between agential subjectivity and structural objectivity in human practices and behaviours.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: ethical consumer, reflexivity, identity, critical realism, social theory, agency, structure
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law (Leeds) > School of Sociology and Social Policy (Leeds)
Depositing User: Dr Yana Manyukhina
Date Deposited: 06 Sep 2016 10:47
Last Modified: 06 Sep 2016 10:47
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/13890

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