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Ethical living: relinking ethics and consumption through care in Chile and Brazil

last modified Jun 05, 2017 02:37 PM
New study into ethical living in Brazil and Chile

Department of Sociology PhD student Nurjk Agloni publishes in the British Journal of Sociology.

In her study, Nurjk examines ethical living in Chile and Brazil by relinking ethics and consumption through care. The paper understands that mainstream conceptualizations of ‘ethical consumption’ equate the notion with conscious, individual, market-mediated choices motivated by ethical or political aims that transcend ordinary concerns. It draws on recent sociology and anthropology of consumption literature on the links between ordinary ethics and ethical consumption, discussing some of the limitations of this conceptualization.

The study uses data from 32 focus groups conducted in Chile and Brazil, proposing a conceptualization of ethical consumption that does not centre on individual, market-mediated choices but understanding it at the level of practical outcomes, which the paper refers to as different forms of ‘ethical living’.

To do that, the paper argues that we need to depart from the deontological understanding of ethics that underpins mainstream approaches to ethical consumption and adopt a more consequentialist view focusing on ethical outcomes. The research develops these points through describing one particular ordinary moral regime that seemed to be predominant in participants’ accounts of ethics and consumption in both Chile and Brazil: one that links consumption and ethics through care.

The paper shows that the moral regime of care leads to ‘ethical outcomes’, such as energy saving or limiting overconsumption, yet contrary to the mainstream view of ethical consumption, emphasizing politicized choice expressed through markets, these result from following ordinary ethics, often through routines of practices.

The full paper can be found on the British Journal of Sociology website.

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