Downshifting Consumer = Upshifting Citizen? An Examination of a Local Freecycle Community

Michelle R. Nelson, Mark A. Rademacher, Hye Jin Paek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Critics suggest that contemporary consumer culture creates overworked and overshopped consumers who no longer engage in civic life. The authors challenge this conventional criticism against consumption within an individualistic lifestyle and argue instead that consumers who are downshifting do engage in civic life. In particular, this research examines downshifting attitudes among members of freecycle.org, a grassroots gift economy community. Results of an online survey show that downshifting consumers are indeed less materialistic and brand-conscious. They also tend to practice political consumption (e.g., boycotts, buycotts). Most important, they tend to engage in a digital form, but not a traditional form, of civic and political participation. The authors contend that alternative forms of consumption might be a new form of civic engagement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)141-156
Number of pages16
JournalAnnals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Volume611
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2007

Keywords

  • Civic engagement
  • Downshifting
  • Materialism
  • Political consumption
  • Web community

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences(all)

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