Ethical Consumption, Consumer Self-Governance, and the Later Foucault

Noah Quastela1

a1 University of British Columbia


This article analyzes the later work of Michel Foucault on ethics, freedom, and self-governance as it applies to the ethics of consumption and to new ethical consumerist movements such as fair-trade coffee. Foucault's emphasis on practices of the self helps elucidate the virtue ethics involved in consumption choices. Ethical consumption is cast as a set of practices of self-development: through critical activity and the quest for freedom, persons seek to transform themselves to live in reciprocal relationships with other persons and nature. This requires public deliberation and collective action to effect change within ourselves and our practical systems of consumption and production.