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Everyday consumption practices as a site for activism? Exploring the motivations of grassroots reuse groups

Mike Foden


This paper draws on early findings from a study of grassroots groups and individuals engaged in alternative consumption practices: ways of acquiring, exchanging, using and disposing of goods outside of the formal economy. The study focuses on individuals and groups that take items that would otherwise be classed as waste and try to put them (back) to use. It is especially concerned with ethical and political dimensions of these practices: how small day-to-day acts are associated with trying to live according to a set of values and how they might make a difference to wider problems. Two existing ways of theorising the connection between everyday individual acts and social change are put forward: prefigurative politics and political consumerism. Initial findings suggest ambivalence concerning the political nature of such activities, with participants recognising a politics of consumption, but hesitant to describe their engagement in alternative consumption practices as a political act.


DOI 10.3351/ppp.0006.0003.0004