Supermarket wars, celebrity chefs, and ethical consumption


The past few years have seen growing media coverage and public awareness in Australia around questions of food provenance and animal welfare while supermarkets have come under considerable public and political pressure over their treatment of Australian farmers and perceived uncompetitive pricing practices.

The mainstreaming of ethical concerns cannot be understood simply as a consumer movement or indeed purely as an extension of market logics; rather it is articulated to and implicated in broader changes in relation to the political and social role and status of corporate players, non-state actors and questions of lifestyle politics in shaping the future of food systems, policy and regulation.

This article examines the role of celebrity chefs and other non-state actors in this heated and highly politicised environment. Celebrity chefs have been described as the new rock stars of the contemporary age. More than just stars, however, they have in many ways become cultural icons of our time as they neatly exemplify and embody a variety of contemporary shifts and tensions around work, lifestyle and leisure; branded, performative modes of selfhood and lifestyle.

Download the complete article by Tania Lewis and Alison Huber.

Ethical consumers and sustainability citizenship

From ‘guilt free’ Fair Trade chocolate to non-Sweat fashion and palm oil free products, during the past decade the notion of ‘ethical consumption’ has gained increasing prominence in wealthy capitalist nations around the world as a critical concept, market category and diverse set of everyday practices.

Though the term may have entered into mainstream parlance in recent years, ‘ethical consumption’ doesn’t refer to a clearly defined set of practices but rather can be seen as a convenient catch-all expression for a range of tendencies within contemporary consumer economies. The phrase potentially embraces a myriad of concerns in relation to commodity production and provenance, from animal welfare, labour standards, Fair Trade and human rights to health and wellbeing, and environmental and community sustainability. It also suggests an equally wide range of stances toward consumer culture.

If the excessive consumption of commodities is seen as a major contributing factor to anthropogenic climate change, then the very notion that one can shop or consume one’s way to a better or greener world would seem to fundamentally contradict forms of sustainability citizenship.

However if we understand the ethical turn as opening the way to a more fundamental critique of consumption, not only in terms of commodity capitalism but in terms of the carbon-intensive lifestyles and consumption practices associated with late modernity more broadly then sustainability citizenship might usefully draw some lessons from the rise of ethical consumption.

If the field of ethical consumption is diverse in terms of the concerns it encompasses, one point of commonality is the emphasis placed on the politicization of everyday lifestyle practices, particularly in relation to sustainability.

Read the complete article by Tania Lewis.