The Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion

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home > Transactions > Volume 18 - 2012 > Robert Owen and the Owenites: Consumer and Consumption in the New Moral World

Robert Owen and the Owenites: Consumer and Consumption in the New Moral World

Over some two centuries those who have contributed to the corpus of British socialist political economy have wrestled with the ideological challenge of accommodating the consumer and the business of private consumption within their political economies. For many the act of consumption has been seen as quintessentially individualistic and self-regarding; as socially divisive in terms of the consumption of positional goods; as utilising resources for private rather than socially-beneficial public purposes; as having destructive environmental consequences and as inflicting psychologically or physically harmful labour on producers and moral and other damage on the unthinkingly sybaritic consumer. Such consumption has also been seen as reinforcing the boundaries of social class while, paradoxically, engendering false aspirations that threaten to occlude class consciousness. And in this latter respect, consumption has frequently been viewed by socialist writers as having deflected the working class from its historic transformational mission.

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