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On Consumed Democracy: The Expansion of Consumer Choice, Its Causal Effects on Political Engagement, and Its Implications for Democracy
Uppsala universitet, Humanistisk-samhällsvetenskapliga vetenskapsområdet, Samhällsvetenskapliga fakulteten, Statsvetenskapliga institutionen.
2018 (Engelska)Doktorsavhandling, sammanläggning (Övrigt vetenskapligt)
Abstract [en]

This is a thesis about expansions of consumer choice, their causal effects on political engagement, and the democratic implications that follow. For material and ideological reasons alike, consumer choices have expanded over the last decades and are likely to become even more present in citizens’ lives in the future. Scholars’ appraisal of this expansion of consumer choice ranges from, on the one hand, seeing it as a threat to active citizenship to, on the other hand, celebrating it as inherently democratic.

The thesis accepts the assumed democratic potential of consumer choice as a means for conveying legitimate political preferences and affecting political outcomes. Yet the introduction shows that, from the perspective of normative democratic theory, citizens’ consumer choices are under most circumstances democratically inferior to civic engagement that addresses formal political decision-making. It is thus a pressing question whether there actually are elements in consumer choices that reduce citizens’ inclination to engage in conventional forms of political participation. This empirical question is addressed in the three essays.

The essays tap the effects of consumer choices in different contexts, such as parents’ school choices for their children (Essay I), consumer choices that interact with citizens’ political motivations, i.e. “political consumption,” (Essay II), and consumer choices regarding plainly private consumer goods (Essay III). All the three essays account for causality and do so by means of experimental designs. In addition, the essays are similar in that their results point in the same direction: expansions of consumer choice reduce citizens’ willingness to conventional political participation.

Given the democratic significance of conventional participation and the pervasiveness of consumer choice, the results are important both from a scholarly perspective and from a broader societal perspective. The results cast new light on a wide range of issues about the extension of consumer choices and their presence in citizens’ lives, including e.g. decisions about user choice in welfare services and advertising regulation. This thesis does by no means end the discussion about such policies, but demonstrates the significance of a certain outlook: issues about the extension of consumer choice are issues about democratic values.

Ort, förlag, år, upplaga, sidor
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2018. , s. 55
Serie
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Social Sciences, ISSN 1652-9030 ; 161
Nyckelord [en]
democracy, consumer choice, survey experiment, responsiveness, political equality, political participation, political engagement, marketization, political consumption, political consumerism, citizen-consumer.
Nationell ämneskategori
Statsvetenskap (exklusive studier av offentlig förvaltning och globaliseringsstudier)
Forskningsämne
Statskunskap
Identifikatorer
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-362350ISBN: 978-91-513-0458-8 (tryckt)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-362350DiVA, id: diva2:1253110
Disputation
2018-11-23, Brusewitzsalen, Östra Ågatan 19, Uppsala, 13:15 (Svenska)
Opponent
Handledare
Tillgänglig från: 2018-10-29 Skapad: 2018-10-03 Senast uppdaterad: 2018-11-19
Delarbeten
1. Pacified citizens with a marketized school system: Causal evidence of boomeranging effects of user choice
Öppna denna publikation i ny flik eller fönster >>Pacified citizens with a marketized school system: Causal evidence of boomeranging effects of user choice
(Engelska)Manuskript (preprint) (Övrigt vetenskapligt)
Abstract [en]

The marketization of schools and other public services is supposed to have changed the citizens’ relation to the state in many Western countries over the last 30 years. It has been an explicit motivation behind marketization to increase citizens’ opportunities to influence public services. Yet, studies of marketization effects on citizens’ willingness to address public decision-making remain scarce. In this study a survey experiment taps causal effects of marketization in a fictional scenario. The results show that marketization significantly reduces respondents’ intentions to influence decision-making of politicians, bureaucrats and providers of public services. The effects are robust and mainly driven by effects of marketizations’ introduction of user choice. The recorded pacifying effects imply that marketization reforms potentially reduce the public services’ responsiveness to citizens’ interests and thus aggravate the problems they were to address.

Nationell ämneskategori
Statsvetenskap (exklusive studier av offentlig förvaltning och globaliseringsstudier)
Forskningsämne
Statskunskap
Identifikatorer
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-362345 (URN)
Tillgänglig från: 2018-10-03 Skapad: 2018-10-03 Senast uppdaterad: 2018-10-10
2. Causal impact of political consumption on conventional political participation: Evidence from a survey experiment
Öppna denna publikation i ny flik eller fönster >>Causal impact of political consumption on conventional political participation: Evidence from a survey experiment
(Engelska)Manuskript (preprint) (Övrigt vetenskapligt)
Abstract [en]

Making consumer choices based on political considerations has become the second most widespread form of political participation in many Western countries. Scholars give conflicting accounts as to whether this political consumption ‘crowds out’ conventional political participation, but recent accounts emphasize possible mobilizing effects of political consumption. These studies are, however, correlational in nature, and cannot actually assess whether the causal effect of political consumption is predominantly negative or positive. This article illuminates the relation between political consumption and conventional participation by means of an experimental study. The results run counter to prevailing wisdom. They indicate no significant mobilizing effects of political consumption on the willingness to participate, but instead significant demobilizing effects on a wide set of participation measures. The study will inform social movements’ strategies for mobilization and contributes to the understanding of the role of ‘crowding out’ effects among forms of political participation, in general, and, in particular, of political consumption’s impact on other forms of political participation.

Nationell ämneskategori
Statsvetenskap (exklusive studier av offentlig förvaltning och globaliseringsstudier)
Forskningsämne
Statskunskap
Identifikatorer
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-362348 (URN)
Tillgänglig från: 2018-10-03 Skapad: 2018-10-03 Senast uppdaterad: 2018-10-11
3. Road Signs to Serfdom?: Emerging experimental evidence on demobilizing effects of consumer advertising
Öppna denna publikation i ny flik eller fönster >>Road Signs to Serfdom?: Emerging experimental evidence on demobilizing effects of consumer advertising
(Engelska)Manuskript (preprint) (Övrigt vetenskapligt)
Abstract [en]

Consumer advertising has long been accused of reducing people’s engagement for common causes and collective action, thus decreasing political participation with potential implications for democratic qualities such as governments’ responsiveness to citizens’ interests. These worries have, however, remained untested by studies able to examine causal impact. This large-N (2,868) survey experiment taps respondents’ anticipated political participation when exposed (or not) to a representative set of consumer advertisements in otherwise identical real-world settings. The group exposed to advertising scores lower than the control group on all measures for anticipated participation. The effects are stronger among those respondents who have been the most attentive during the test, as well as among those less exposed to advertising before the test. However, the statistical significance is robust only as regards anticipated participation channeled through formal politics. Given consumer advertising’s pervasiveness, the suggested effects are potentially far-reaching and the results motivate further empirical research.

Nationell ämneskategori
Statsvetenskap (exklusive studier av offentlig förvaltning och globaliseringsstudier)
Forskningsämne
Statskunskap
Identifikatorer
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-362349 (URN)
Tillgänglig från: 2018-10-03 Skapad: 2018-10-03 Senast uppdaterad: 2018-10-03

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