Making difference and consuming change

Research project
Inactive research
Project owner
Department of journalism, media and communication (JMG)

Short description

The general area of interest for this dissertation project by Johanna Arnesson is the intersection of consumption and politics in contemporary discourses on sustainability, gender equality and global justice.

To some extent, this draws on an increased marketization of society, where privatisation policies transform public resources such as health care and education to commodities, and citizens to consumers. Mainly, however, the study focuses on how the political potential of our consumption habits is highlighted in different contexts.

The purpose is to investigate the discursive construction of "ethical consumption" in specific media genres – that is, how the relationship between consumption and social change is communicated, discussed and given meaning by various actors in newspapers, corporate communication and social media.

Active consumption choices as a form of political participation or social identity are today encouraged by political actors both right and left. We are also invited to "make a difference" by choosing certain brands or products that promise to "save lives" or "create change" in one way or another, almost every time we step into a store. Using the term "ethical" instead of "political" to describe such choices is a way of highlighting a change in the form and understanding of contemporary consumer politics. Being an "ethical consumer" or promoting "ethical" products is not limited to specific niche markets or political campaigns, but rather ideas that have been given a new and widespread significance for organisations, businesses and citizens/consumers.

An area where this type of ideas has been widely promoted in recent years is the Swedish fashion world, where active consumption choices are highlighted as the solution to various social or environmental problems related to the industry. The research project is therefore specifically focused on how the idea of "ethical" or "sustainable" fashion is defined and discussed by journalists, fashion brands, and consumers. The research questions focus on the representation of ethical fashion consumers and the issues linked to ethical or sustainable fashion, and the way in which consumption is given political meaning by different actors. Methodologically, the project builds on the discourse-historical approach (DHA) within critical discourse studies, which explores how discourses, genres and texts change in relation to economic and socio-political changes. Empirically it is based on material from the Swedish daily press, annual reports from Swedish fashion companies, and discussions between individuals in social media.


Fashionable politics. The discursive construction of ethical consumerism in corporate communications, news media, and social media (doctoral dissertation).
Author: Johanna Arnesson (2018).