Social Psychology, Consumer Culture and Neoliberal Political Economy

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Journal Article
Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 2017, 47 (3), pp. 363 - 379
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© 2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd Consumer culture and neoliberal political economy are often viewed by social psychologists as topics reserved for anthropologists, economists, political scientists and sociologists. This paper takes an alternative view arguing that social psychology needs to better understand these two intertwined institutions as they can both challenge and provide a number of important insights into social psychological theories of self-identity and their related concepts. These include personality traits, self-esteem, social comparisons, self-enhancement, impression management, self-regulation and social identity. To illustrate, we examine how elements of consumer culture and neoliberal political economy intersect with social psychological concepts of self-identity through three main topics: ‘the commodification of self-identity’, ‘social categories, culture and power relations’ and the ‘governing of self-regulating consumers’. In conclusion, we recommend a decommodified approach to research with the aim of producing social psychological knowledge that avoids becoming enmeshed with consumer culture and neoliberalism.
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