Unfinished debate: consumption and/or political action?

Last week on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour show, there was a debate about fashion ethics in the wake of the Rana Plaza collapse. You can listen to it on iPlayer (start around 21 minutes in). Both of the guests have featured on this blog. The programme bought them together: Tansy Hoskins, author of Stitched Up: the anti capitalist book of fashion and Orsola de Castro, up cycling & sustainable fashion pioneer and co-founder of Fashion Revolution Day. As is often the case, there wasn’t enough time to get into things so, at the end, I posted that tweet to say so. This blog post below was talking about exactly this issue. This is its conclusion. How does the author get there? What would you say? How will our Challenge activities (not) fit into these arguments?

… Ethical consumption gives the individual the illusion of contributing to progress; of “doing their part” by making purchasing decisions. This illusion can detract, and probably has detracted, from trying to put forward an avowedly political agenda that seeks to mobilise people collectively to make the changes they support. Instead, it individualises ethics, it individualises politics and it reaffirms us as consumers rather than citizens – it is a part of the profit-maximising, pathologically-externalising neoliberal market system that has caused many of the problems ethical consumerism seeks to alleviate, rather than being an alternative. … my point is not that consumption issues should be ignored … but that ethical consumption is nowhere close to sufficient to achieve the changes people think they are buying towards. Public goods cannot be purchased by individuals, there are many more dimensions to choice than people realise and businesses play a major role in making decisions in the market. If change is really desired, ethical issues must be repoliticised and worked towards though concerted political campaigns – the revolution will not be bought, as it were.

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