Completing the Circuit: Routine, Reflection, and Ethical Consumption

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11 Scopus citations


Efforts to explain why some people incorporate ethical concerns into everyday shopping for food and household goods, while many do not, have so far left significant variation in “ethical consumption” unexplained. Seeking to move beyond explanations that rely mainly on differences in consumers' social class, gender, and political engagement, I draw on concepts associated with “practice theory” to argue that ethical consumption is closely tied to people's willingness and ability to spend time, while shopping, on distinct activities associated with breaking old routines and establishing new ones. The central insight of practice theory is that most consumption is the product of unconscious routine. And it is precisely because consciously departing from routine is, according to my study, a fundamentally time-consuming process, that lack of time emerges as a crucial obstacle to translating abstract ethical concerns into concrete action as a consumer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)619-641
Number of pages23
JournalSociological Forum
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


  • consumer culture
  • ethical consumption
  • practice theory
  • routine-reflection circuit
  • shopping
  • time

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