The European consumer citizen: a coherent, tangible and relevant notion of citizenship?
2010-07-29T09:43:49Z (GMT) by
The significance of the consumer’s role in society has been a focus of discussion since the first quarter of the twentieth century. The improved communications and technology that appeared in the second half of the twentieth century, and coincided with the emergence of new supranational structures of European government, have influenced a transformation of the state and the market. Where the consumer of political science was readily transformed into the notional consumer citizen, the once distinct legal doctrines of private and public law conspired to complicate attempts to accommodate the conflated entity. The transformation taking place in the state and the market has brought with it multiple identities for the consumer that have been acknowledged in law, and an opening up of the distinct national citizenship spaces in EU Member States. This thesis argues that a limited and theoretical notion of the consumer citizen can now be accommodated, particularly as a consequence of the economic and technological forces of globalisation that have resulted in an acceleration of the commodification of public services. In reality, numerous barriers can be identified that turn the concept of the consumer citizen into a more relevant, if aspirational, notion of a consumer citizenship practice defined by consumer behaviours. This thesis discusses the normative influences that shape these behaviours and argues that the platforms and channels necessary for an effective consumer citizenship practice, capable of policy and market shaping, is developing with the encouragement of the EU institutions. These normative influences are located in the enforcement and empowerment aspects of consumer protection; state, civil society and market sources of consumer information; individual and structural aspects of capability; and the individualistic and solidaristic aspects of motivation. They are presented as a hierarchy of normative influences and applied in an illustrative case study of the energy sector.